Professor Adele Jones
Adele Jones is a Professor of Social Work at University of Huddersfield and Director of None in Three, a research centre creating video games to help reduce violence against women and girls.
My mother was the most inspirational woman in my life. She was a survivor of domestic abuse – both in her youth and her marriage. I always wondered, apart from having four children, of course, what made her unable to move out of the position of a victim; it certainly wasn’t that she chose to be in a violent relationship. There are numerous factors that keep women in situations where they may be subject to abuse and violence – how do these come together in different ways for different women? And what makes a perpetrator of violence believe it is ok to treat another human being in that way? These two questions have haunted me and lie behind all my research.
I was a social worker for many years, but realised that while you can make a difference to a particular person or family, you can’t answer the larger questions about what is happening in wider society that contributes to gender-based violence. Over the last ten years, our research – including a six-country study with UNICEF on adult perceptions of child sexual abuse – has generated some very important insights and helped me to understand the reasons some males inflict violence on women, the links between violence against women and against children and why it can be difficult to leave a violent relationship. Through None in Three, a research centre funded by GCRF for the prevention of gender-based violence, we are now working to translate our research into policy and preventative interventions.
The World Health Organisation estimates one in three women and girls will experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. The focus of our work is to make that statistic none in three. Our work shows that attitudes that contribute to gender-based violence (including beliefs about male control and female subservience) are transmitted to the young. If we can change those attitudes before they become internalised, then we have the opportunity to reduce the likelihood of young people becoming perpetrators of violence as adults. For some girls who are victimised, abuse becomes normalised – they think it is inevitable and that they have no power to change it – so, what we are trying to do, for boys and girls, is to use them as change-makers, to challenge norms that promote violence and empower young people to think and act in non-adversarial ways.
A body of research points to how some computer games can generate aggression in some children, but what if the opposite is also true? Technology is one of the most effective ways of engaging young people today, so we are developing a series of prosocial games aimed at changing cultural and social attitudes to gender-based violence. Working with local experts means the games are designed to tackle specific issues in each country. For example, the game in Uganda looks at attitudes to child marriage, while one we are working on for the UK focusses on intimate partner violence within adolescent relationships. These interventions are not just teaching children violence is wrong, but giving them the internal tools – empathy and resilience – to make good choices.
When Toni Morrison was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature, she talked about language being a precursor to action. It’s something that has stayed with me. She was a writer and also an activist; she didn’t try to separate herself. I’m a human-rights defender, activist, researcher, teacher, mother, grandmother, black woman. This holistic approach is an empowering way to work – and I think it pays off.