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Breaking the cycle of intergenerational violence

“Committing violence is painful in many different ways,” says Sor Bunthat slowly, his eyes cast down on the floor, “It not only affects those directly involved, but the family and our society too.”

Bunthat lives in a village in the Kampong Cham province in Cambodia with Buth Sinath, his wife, and their two sons: twelve-year-old Sovan, and Makara, who recently turned two. Bunthat and Sinath are both farmers and make a modest income in the rice paddy fields located close to their home. The work can be hard, and after coming home from work, a tired Bunthat would quarrel with his wife, sometimes leading to physical violence. Later, he would feel guilty for his actions but did not know how to control his anger. This behaviour would repeat itself over and over again.

Bunthat's behaviour changed after joining a programme iled by the Cambodian Ministry of Women's Affairs with technical support from UNFPA and Partners for Prevention (a joint initiative by UNDP, UNFPA, UN Women and UNV), implemented in Kampong Cham since September 2016 to help prevent violence against women and girls in the region. This province was chosen since 33% of women in Kampong Cham have experienced physical violence by an intimate partner since the age of 15, according to the Cambodian Demographic and Health survey published in 2014. Nationally, one in five women in Cambodia have been subjected to physical violence.

One of the key risk factors that influences violence perpetration in the long term is something called an ‘intergenerational cycle’. This is where children who witness or experience violence at home are more likely to become perpetrators themselves in the future.

In Cambodia, promoting the raising of children in non-violent homes and without emotional abuse was one of the programme’s priorities, because according to the 2016 report, 76% of Cambodian men stated that they had experienced some form of abuse before they were 18. To prevent relationships within current and future families from becoming abusive, P4P recognised that this intergenerational cycle of violence had to be broken.

Indeed, the programme has not only benefitted Bunthat’s understanding of violence.

“I decided to enroll my son Soyan into the programme too,” says Bunthat, “I want my children to clearly understand violence issues in the family and community. I want my children to be able to have the opportunity to speak more about their experiences and to broaden their knowledge about the impacts that violence has on physical and mental health.”

Originally published by Partners for Prevention and written by Mailee Osten-Tan.

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