Alternatives to conflict and violence: what do Ukrainians think?


Canadian NGO supported by the UK Embassy in Ukraine conducted a research called to study public attitude to various forms of violence in the society. It is for the first time that the research also focuses on mutual relations of the military and civilians as well as on the attitude towards combat veterans who are back to peaceful life.  

Military and civilians share equally negative attitude towards violence and claim ready to resolve the conflicts in a peaceful way. Seventy six per cent of respondents are of the opinion that combat experience cannot justify domestic violence. The figures are based on the results of the social and psychological research conducted in the framework of the “Alternatives to Violence” project, said Ahata Heyko, media coordinator of the Stabilization Support Services NGO in Ukraine.

The research was held as part of the program “Overcoming social impact of the conflict in Donbas and Crimea annexation by Ukrainian authorities and civil society” implemented by Canadian NGO Stabilization Support Services and supported by the UK Embassy in Ukraine. “The research aims at drawing attention to the actual state of play, discovering social norms, rules and stereotypes in the attitude to various forms of conflict in the Ukrainian society as well as in the attitude of military and civilians towards each other,” explained Halyna Tsyganenko, head of the project, PhD in psychology, senior researcher at the Institute of social and political psychology of the National Academy of Pedagogical Sciences of Ukraine, co-founder of the psychological crisis service of the NGO “Ukrainian Association of Specialists for overcoming the consequences of psychologically traumatic events.”

Military and civilians were interviewed separately in central, western and south-eastern Ukraine including in the ATO zone. A total of 1270 respondents were interviewed in course of six focus groups.

Military in peaceful life

The research disproves the wide-spread opinion stating that in case of a conflict between civilians and military the latter tend to be more aggressive. “Both military and civilians consider non-violent ways of conflict resolution more acceptable. However an alarming thing is that these peaceful strategies are the strategies of avoiding. It means there is no dialogue and touchpoints for mutual understanding,” noted Olha Kukharuk, psychologist, member of the project research group, volunteer of the psychological crisis service of the NGO “Ukrainian Association of Specialists for overcoming the consequences of psychologically traumatic events.”

The research also revealed stigmatization of combat veterans. Seventy one per cent of the interviewed are convinced that the veterans do have PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and cannot resolve it on their own. Fifty three per cent of military are of the same opinion.

Kateryna Borozdina, member of the working group, director of the department for assessment, monitoring and legislative activity department of the NGO “La Strada-Ukraine”, noted that the organization received over 300 calls from demobilized servicemen re PTSD to their hotline as well as almost 200 calls re domestic violence in the families where one of the family members was fighting in the ATO zone. Demobilized servicemen also reported the cases of negative attitude to them outside their families.

Domestic and gender based violence

In general the research revealed a controversial attitude to violence. Eighty five per cent of the interviewed consider violence inacceptable in any form, however 32 per cent accept psychological violence (disrespect, pressure or swearing) as an influence tool. The figure is higher in the ATO zone – 38 per cent.

Domestic and gender-based violence remain most problematic spheres. It is a subject for which respondents’ opinions have demonstrated existent stereotypes. Each fourth is convinced that outsiders should better not interfere into family conflicts even if they are violent. Twenty nine per cent of military men and 27 of civilian men agreed to the statement that if a man wants sexual relations in the family the woman has to abide because “it is her duty”. However 90 per cent of respondents in the ATO zone did not agree to this statement, said Kateryna Borozdina.

Fifteen per cent of military and 10 per cent of civilians are of the opinion that a woman is responsible for the sexual violence that she has suffered. Fourteen per cent think that a woman should not report violence. Twenty eight per cent consider that if a man was beaten it is his fault to not have been able to protect himself, 45 per cent think that a man that was subject to sexual violence has to keep quiet about it.

Research-based lawmaking and training

According to the authors of the research, its results will help psychologists, social workers, journalists, lawyers and drafters of laws to form a constructive system to prevent conflicts and violence. “We will be developing training programs for law enforcement staff and civil servants,” said Dmytro Reva, member of the project working group, director of the NGO Human Rights Watch “Sich”, head of the legal department at the NGO Ukrainian center for assistance to victims of terrorism in eastern Ukraine “Forepost”.

Participants of the briefing also noted that they intend passing the research results to the respective parliamentary committee that is currently reconsidering the draft law “On counteraction and prevention of domestic violence”. The draft law is considered to be a progressive one providing the necessary set of tools. The Parliament passed the document in the first reading on November 7, 2016 following hot discussions by the MPs, caused, in particular, by the words “gender” and “sexual orientation” in the text of the draft law.