According to the Council of Europe, 45% of all women in the European Union have suffered from violence perpetrated by men, while it is estimated that every fifth woman has been subjected to domestic violence. It is therefore clear that violence against women is a grave social problem which inflicts massive psychological damage. Intimate partner violence includes acts of physical aggression, but also psychological abuse, forced intercourse and other forms of sexual coercion, controlling behaviors, isolation from friends and the restriction of access to assistance.
Unofficial data highlights the fact that a great number of women experiencing violence do not denounce their aggressors, as they feel uncomfortable speaking about what has been or is being done to them. Shame, guilt or intimidation are causing these women to keep the tales of their traumas to themselves, as victims often fear being either judged or not taken seriously by police officers. However, not revealing the acts of domestic violence can cause severe mental health problems for the abused women.
The mental health aspect of intimate partner violence has already been successfully addressed in the training of general practitioners. Still, this aspect needs to be reinforced in the case of police staff, who represent the first contacts of women denouncing intimate partner violence.
Therefore, it is fundamental to raise awareness and to develop a professional knowledge of the problems involved in dealing with victims of domestic violence, and above all, the ability to perceive and respond to the victims’ mental health needs.
Professionals need to have a thorough knowledge of the problems entailed in order to provide the appropriate help, but they must also be able to draw on comprehensive resources of basic information which they can pass on to the victims.
- to provide cross-cultural and gender-sensitive information on the mental health aspects of violence towards women
- to develop training modules which project partners used to train law enforcement agents who deal with abused women, promoting an adequate response to this issue.
- to promote an adequate attitude of police officers when dealing with victims of domestic abuse
Karina Huberman, Project Coordinator