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Forms of domestic violence
Domestic violence is the most prevalent form of gender-based violence worldwide. 1 in 4 European women experiences or will experience it at some point in her life.

Domestic violence is one of the most prevalent forms of gender-based violence worldwide. According to the Council of Europe, one in four European women experiences or will experience domestic violence at some point in her life, while every year 6% to 10% of women experience domestic violence. It can happen to everyone, within a marriage, relationship, or cohabitation, from the current, former, or ex-husband/partner.

Repeating pattern

Domestic violence involves a repeated pattern of offending behaviors by the perpetrator, with the aim of maintaining power and (social) control over his victim, whether she is a woman or a child.

With constant verbal and physical punishments, threats, and coercion, the abuser aims to intimidate, frighten, humiliate the victim, “break” their morale and make them feel unable to resist, to see the situation clearly as it is.

In addition to physical abuse (slapping, pushing, hair pulling, etc.) that threatens the physical integrity of the victim, domestic violence takes various forms: verbal, psychological, physical, sexual abuse, and financial violence – which do not leave visible marks but they hurt just the same.

Psychological/Emotional Abuse

It is a systematic, painful and corrosive process that leads to mental and emotional pain or damage to a person. Psychological and emotional abuse refers to a set of actions: firstly, intimidation and threats of physical or sexual violence.

Often the abuser threatens to harm the victim or their family, to take custody of the children, or to kill themselves.

Secondly, the systematic humiliation and constant criticism, the creation of guilt in his/her partner, and the incessant control of his/her personal life.

Thirdly, the attempt to isolate the victim from their family, friends, and relatives. The above actions aim to reduce self-confidence and undermine the self-esteem and autonomy of the victim, to the point where they doubt their mental clarity and believe that they are responsible and guilty for the abuse they receive.

Verbal Violence

Verbal violence is directly linked to psychological abuse. It causes pain and mental anguish to the victims. It includes a wide range of behaviors that start from shouting, threatening, and insulting, and reach the verbal humiliation and terrorizing of the victim.

The goal of verbal abuse is manipulation through fear and control over the person’s life. Insults, accusations, censure, defamation, blaming the abusive behavior on the victim, constant criticism, verbal degradation, and undermining of self-confidence are just a few faces of this complex phenomenon.

Although it is the most common form of abuse, it is not treated with the same seriousness as other forms of gender-based violence, because there is no visible evidence that it has happened and the abuser can be deceptive by maintaining impeccable behavior in public.

Economic Violence

The deprivation of resources, opportunities, goods, and services, to manipulate the victim and make him/her dependent on the abuser. Usually, economic violence within the relationship is aimed at controlling the partner so that they feel helpless and powerless to leave the abusive relationship.

Economic violence is practiced in many ways: Firstly, deprivation of the right to economic autonomy. A typical example is the prohibition or obstruction of the right to work. Secondly, control of the victim’s assets and income.

The abuser can extract the victim’s salary or deny them the use of it at will, exclude them from financial resources (e.g. withholding of a bank card), force the victim to take out a loan in their name, not allowing them access to family income or decide on shared resources without informing the partner. Thirdly, depriving the victim of the necessary income to meet their basic needs.

Finally, preventing the use of contraceptives and creating obstacles in accessing social goods (education, health, etc.) are also forms of economic violence.

Sexual Violence

Sexual violence is any sexual act, as well as, an attempt at the such act, without the voluntary and free consent of the victim. In its practice, physical violence, coercion, and threats of violence are often (but not always) used.

Learning to blame yourself

Domestic violence has significant consequences on women’s mental health (anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, post-traumatic stress, psychosomatic symptoms, etc.). The emotional profile they develop (low self-esteem, feelings of worthlessness, feeling unworthy of being loved), combined with the alternating reactions of the abuser, traps them in the “cycle of violence“.

In fact, gradually, the survivor of chronic domestic violence sees herself through the eyes of the perpetrator. She “learns” to blame herself. The abuser slowly and methodically “implants” this idea that she is co-responsible so that she forgoes any escape scenario.

Frequently, abused women use the words or arguments of the perpetrators themselves: “I’m like my mother, just like she pissed off my father and he beat her, I do the same,” “I’m doing everything wrong, something’s wrong with me”, “Yes but I provoked him too”.

By internalizing this responsibility, which in no way belongs to them, abused women are dominated by feelings of guilt and shame, which create significant barriers to disclosing and denouncing the violence.

“Learned Helplessness”

The repeated painful experiences of abuse and the traumatic nature of the bond with the abuser—which is strengthened during periods between incidents when the abuser is calm, loving, and apologetic—lead survivors to a state of paralysis, with feelings of inadequacy, and inability to support themselves.

In this state of so-called “learned helplessness”, victims have the impression that they have no control over their lives, so they gradually abandon the idea of ​​independence through escaping the relationship.

In fact, escaping takes on terrifying dimensions because of fear: Constant fear in the relationship, about what will happen next. Fear that the perpetrator will harm her and the children if they leave. Fear of not being believed. Fear of social stigma.

Finally, financial violence and dependence on the abuser is also an important inhibiting factor. Especially in cases where women do not work, they feel extremely weak to leave, as they believe that they will not be able to cope with the needs of everyday life, especially when they have children.

Unlock your power

During the quarantine period, women living in violent relationships are the most threatened. Every survivor can escape abuse if they “unlock” the power hidden within them. All women have the right to safety, justice, freedom; to a life free of violence.

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