Conceptualizing sexual and gender-based violence in European asylum reception centers

Charlotte Oliveira, MR Martins, S Dias, Ines Keygnaert

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Sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) is a major public health problem and a violation of human rights. Refugees, asylum seekers and migrants are exposed to a constant risk for both victimization and perpetration. Yet, in the context of European asylum reception centers (EARF) professionals are also considered to be at risk. Our study explores the conceptualization of SGBV that residents and professionals have in this specific context. Further, we intent to identify key socio-demographic characteristics that are associated with SGBV conceptualization for both groups.

We developed a cross-sectional study using the Senperforto project database. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with residents (n = 398) and professionals (n = 202) at EARF. A principal component analysis (PCA) was conducted to variables related with knowledge on SGBV. Chi-square test and Fisher's exact test were applied to understand if significant statistical association exists with socio-demographic characteristics (significant level 0.5%).

The majority of residents were male (64.6%), aged from 19 to 29 years (41.4%) and single (66.8%); for professionals the majority were women (56.2%), aged from 30 to 39 years (42.3%) and married (56.8%). PCA for residents resulted in 14 dimensions of SGBV representing 83.56% of the total variance of the data, while for professionals it resulted in 17 dimensions that represent 86.92% of the total variance of the data. For both groups differences in SGBV conceptualization were found according to host country, sex, age and marital status. Specific for residents we found differences according to the time of arrival to Europe/host country and type of accommodation, while for professionals differences were found according to legal status and education skills.

Residents and professionals described different conceptualization of SGBV, with specific types of SGBV not being recognized as a violent act. Primary preventive strategies in EARF should focus on reducing SGBV conceptualization discrepancies, taking into account socio-demographic characteristics.
Original languageEnglish
Article number27
Number of pages11
JournalArchives of Public Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2019


  • Asylum reception centres
  • Asylum-seekers
  • Conceptualization
  • Migrants
  • Prevention
  • Professionals
  • Refugees
  • Sexual and gender based violence
  • Sexual violence


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