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A report on psychological violence against women

44% of EU women report psychological violence from partner

44 % of women in the European Union have experienced psychological violence from a partner in their lifetime. Women under 30, women with a disability or health condition, non-heterosexual women and women with a migrant background experience psychological violence at a higher rate than the general population, the European Institute for Gender Equality says in a report about coercive control and psychological violence. EIGE says psychological violence should be treated as a stand-alone phenomenon and that special attention should be paid to online abuse.

EIGE is autonomous body of the European Union established to promote gender equality.

“The implications of psychological violence and coercive control are deeply profound on women victims, where risk of suicide, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder are particularly rife.”

” Additionally, the negative impact on victims’ children can be profound and could lead to an increased risk of victimisation and perpetration later on in adulthood.”

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EIGE notes that several Member States are taking the psychological impact of cyber violence into account. In Italy, the use of electronic communication is an aggravating circumstance for stalking and, in France, it is an aggravating circumstance for sexual harassment. In Austria, cyberstalking is specifically mentioned as a form of stalking in the criminal code.

”Combatting coercive control and psychological violence comes with myriad challenges, given the barriers for effective prevention. For 28% of practitioners surveyed by EIGE for this project, the lack of knowledge on psychological violence remains the most important obstacle to prevention.  As a result, victims of coercive control and psychological violence are reluctant to report their experiences.”

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”From a legal perspective, in most EU Member States psychological violence is prosecuted under criminal offences that are not specific to the domestic or intimate partner context. Denmark, Spain, France, Hungary and Ireland have implemented specific criminal offences for psychological violence or coercive control. And only Denmark and Ireland use the language of coercive control in legislation.”

EIGE´s recommendations:

  • Promote a comprehensive approach to tackling all forms of violence against women in which coercive control is a constitutive element in the upcoming EU proposal for a directive on combating violence against women and domestic violence. This comprehensive approach should be mirrored in funding streams at EU and Member State levels, national strategies and action plans, and EU forums for sharing evidence and best practice.
  • Address psychological violence against women specifically, explicitly and comprehensively (as a stand-alone phenomenon or within the framework of domestic violence) in EU and national legislation by, for example, aligning definitions with the Istanbul Convention.
  • Introduce specific, targeted measures at EU (e.g. the legislative proposal on violence against women, the digital services act and the European strategy for a better internet for our children) and Member State levels to prevent and respond to psychological violence and coercive control perpetrated online.
  • Raise awareness and improve the understanding of coercive control and psychological violence and their criminalisation via activities such as awareness-raising campaigns and training for law enforcement and social services professionals.
  • Ensure that practices funded by the EU and/or Member States are effectively and appropriately targeted to reach the groups of women who are likely to suffer severe consequences of violence and have additional needs (e.g. women who are migrants or refugees, women with disabilities and women who are homeless.
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