About us

About us


Established in October 2009, the Centre for Gender and Violence supercedes and builds on the work and research of the Violence Against Women Research Group (VAWRG). Originally established as the activist-based Domestic Violence Research Group (DVRG) in 1990, its founder members were Gill Hague and Ellen Malos who conceived the original idea for the Group. Marianne Hester joined in 1994.

Developing out of the Women’s Liberation Movement, the DVRG had particularly close relationships with the Women’s Aid Federation of England whose National Office had recently been set up in Bristol. Basing itself on a gendered analysis of violence, the Group conducted wide-ranging high quality research, while still retaining an activist commitment to raising, wherever possible, the voices of abused women and their children.

Over the years, the DVRG expanded to work on all aspects of gender violence across a number of  countries, and using a variety of research methods.

It was further expanded into the Violence Against Women Research Group in 2004 when Marianne Hester brought members of her research team from the University of Sunderland to Bristol.

Aims and principles

The aim of the centre is to conduct high quality research to inform policy, practice and action on gender-based violence.  Underpinning this aim are the following principles.

  • To work alongside movements and organisations challenging violence against women in different countries and contexts.
  • To apply feminist understandings of gender and power in relation to personal violence. We attempt to inform all our research, training and advisory work with broad feminist principles, including the empowerment of child and adult survivors of violence.
  • To use a wide range of research methods as appropriate.
  • To conduct both policy and conceptual / theoretical work on violence against women.
  • To integrate, throughout our work, issues of difference, oppression and diversity, including on grounds of gender, sexuality, religion, disability, class, race and ethnicity, and age.
  • To use a research ethic that recognises power between researcher and researched.
  • To involve survivors / victims of abuse as participants, informants and experts and to highlight their voices, views and needs.
  • To make the safety of both survivors/ victims of abuse and researchers a central, underlying principle of our work.
  • To work where appropriate to inform government policy and service provision.

The group

The centre offers a friendly and supportive environment in which to study and research. We have a thriving international postgraduate community with a wide range of interests. As well as regular meetings and formal seminars, staff and students meet regularly in a more informal setting to share research; to watch international films about the lives of women; to participate in local and national events; to support women’s non-governmental organisations; and to have fun in a supportive environment. By working and celebrating together the group aims to support members in what can be a difficult area of work.

What people say about us

The VAWRG is an invaluable resource for us. I cannot overstate the usefulness of research which focuses on producing information which can be utilised within a practical context. There are no 'ivory towers' here - on numerous occasions I have used the work of the VAWRG to 'make the case' for resources - and service designs - that make a very real difference to the lives of abused women and children. The bridges you have built between academia and activism are a model which should inspire many more people.

Davina James-Hanman, Greater London Domestic Violence Project

The links to practice and activism are especially important to me - this group really is committed to undertaking research that matters and to making a difference for women and children locally, nationally and globally. I am proud to be a part of that.

PhD Student

Why am I talking to you? Because I thought... for one, I thought, well, someone's listening to me. And if it's going to help somebody else, why not? Because it helps people. I mean, it's not just in the refuge, it’s a few years down the line.

Jeannie, Research participant

Being part of the VAWRG makes it possible to do work which can be traumatic. I feel supported and encouraged by some fantastic women to do work which makes a difference.

Member of staff
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