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Recognise the signs of violence in a relationship
Any survivor can escape from an abusive relationship. She is not alone in this journey. She can turn to the appropriate agencies.

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

Economic violence is 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. Lastly, depriving the victim of the necessary income to meet their basic needs.

Sexual Violence

Sexual violence is any sexual act, as well as, an attempt at 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.

The cycle of violence

All too often abused women report feeling trapped in a tight cord, in a vicious circle from which they cannot escape. This feeling is created when the victim is faced with the so-called “cycle of violence”.

The “cycle of violence”, which has three phases, comes into play in all abusive relationships, leading the survivor to a state of paralysis, resignation, and ultimately victimization, which is also the goal of the abuser, in order to ensure the bending of her resistance.

First phase: building the tension

The pattern is stable, consisting of three distinct phases, which vary in time and intensity. First is the “building the tension” phase. This is where the first signs of abusive behavior appear. Stress in the relationship begins to escalate.

The abusive spouse/partner has unexpected outbursts of anger, for trivial reasons (e.g. because the food is not ready on time or because the baby’s crying woke him up). The woman thinks she can appease him by being submissive and nurturing or by keeping her distance. She herself stifles her anger. Gradually, the situation begins to spiral out of control, with the abuser steadily increasing the psychological pressure. This phase can last a long time.

Second phase: the “explosion”

Mania, rage, brutality, lack of control, severe episodes of abuse, physical harm – this is the ‘explosive phase’. Here the survivor understands that it is impossible to have a rational and responsible discussion with the abuser. She believes that any projected resistance will make the situation worse.

This is the most terrifying moment in the “cycle of violence”, which can lead to serious bodily harm and even femicide.

At the same time, it is also the shortest phase, as it usually lasts from two (2) to twenty-four (24) hours.

Many women then leave the abuser. Still others, unable to leave for various reasons, distance themselves from the attack and the terrible pain it causes.

Third phase: the “reconciliation”

After the outbreak follows the “period of reconciliation”. Tension and violence subside. The couple feels relieved and keeps the violent episode quiet or finds ways to justify it.

The abuser transforms into an “angel”, shows remorse, apologizes, asks for forgiveness, offers gifts, and promises not to do it again. But in no case does he take responsibility for his actions. On the contrary, he insists that the victim’s behavior drove him to violence.

The abused woman during the third phase, wanting to maintain the calm atmosphere, convinces herself that the partner/spouse will not do it again and that he will change. This is the most critical phase for her entrapment and victimization.

Soon the cycle will repeat itself…

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.

Make an escape plan

If you want to escape from an abusive relationship it is necessary to strategize your escape. Because during the separation the perpetrator sees that he loses absolute control over the life of his partner/spouse, he becomes enraged and tries to prevent the escape by all means.

This makes it necessary to take protective measures, to draw up a “Safety Plan” on the part of the survivor.

Below, you can find some indicative steps that are useful to keep in mind if you want to escape from an abusive relationship. Of course, each escape plan can only be personalized, and adapted to the needs of each woman, since only she knows what is best and safest for her and her children.

At the end of the article, we will briefly refer to both the legal actions that victims can take, as well as the provisions of the law for their protection.


Support agencies

Every survivor can escape from the abuse if they “unlock” the power hidden within them. You are not alone on this journey. Contact the appropriate agencies for specialized support. Talk to people you trust.

SOS Hotline 15900

It is a service of the General Secretariat of Family Policy and Gender Equality that enables victims of gender/domestic violence or third parties to communicate on a 24-hour basis (daily, all year round) with specialized staff (psychologists, sociologists, etc.) who will provide them with information and support. There is also the possibility of electronic communication via e-mail at the address

Counseling Centers

The Counseling Centers of the General Secretariat of Family Policy and Gender Equality and Municipalities are structures that provide free services to survivors of gender/domestic violence.

Services include:

  • psychological, legal, and work counseling
  • referral to hostels

Counseling Centers exist in Athens (Syntagma, Omonia), Piraeus, Ioannina, Heraklion of Crete, Thessaloniki, Corfu, Kozani, Komotini, Lamia, Larissa, Mytilini, Patra, Syro and Tripoli. Also, the municipalities of Alexandroupoli, Arta, Veria, Elefsina, Zakyntho, Thebes, Kavala, Kalamata, Karditsa, Kefalonia, Kastoria, Katerinis, Keratsini-Drapetsona, Corinthos, Kos, Peristeri, Preveza, Pyrgos, Rethymno, Rhodes, Serres, Trikkaia, Florina, Filis, Chalandri, Chalkidea and Chios have Counseling Centers. Addresses and contact numbers can be found here:

Diotima Center

The following services are free of charge for Greek and immigrant women survivors, and residents of the Attica region:

  • short-term psychosocial support
  • legal advice and legal representation, including covering court costs

The above services are also provided to refugee survivors of gender-based violence residing in Athens, Thessaloniki, Lesvos, and Samos.

For more information, you can contact the Center daily 10-2 pm at

We note that the services provided may change from time to time as they depend on existing funding.


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