How do we define Violence against Women?
Establishing common definitions of violence is a critical component of providing quality services for women and children who have fallen victim to these types of harm. In order to provide quality services and further efforts to eliminate violence against women we should come to a common understanding of the terms used in this form of advocacy, as well as the discourses, legal documents, and theoretical underpinnings evoked with the use of these terms.
The United Nations state that "Gender-based violence is violence that is directed against a woman because she is a woman or that affects women disproportionately. It includes acts that inflict physical, mental or sexual harm or suffering, threats of such acts, coercion and other deprivations of liberty.”
Violence against Women
The Beijing Declaration states that "the term 'violence against women' means any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life, and that 'violence against women' is a manifestation of the historically unequal power relations between men and women, which have led to domination over and discrimination against women by men and to the prevention of women’s full advancement.“
United Nations: The Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action, Fourth World Conference on Women Beijing, China 4-15 September 1995, New York 1996 (p. 73 f.).
Forms of Violence
Domestic violence against women and children does not consist of individual acts of violence.
It is a pattern of:
- Sexual and
- Economic Violence
Physical violence ranges from "just a slap in the face" to sexual abuse all the way to manslaughter, attempted murder and murder. It includes any form of abuse, such as pushing, kicking, pulling the victim's hair, burning her, pushing her against the wall, pushing her out of the window, abusing her with objects, wounding her with weapons, etc.
This may cause injuries such as bruises, contusions, lacerations, teeth knocked out, fractures or cuts. Women are being abused by violent partners also during pregnancy, which may result in complications or miscarriage. Injuries due to the abuse are often found on the head, neck, throat, breast and lower abdominal regions.
* Isolation from friends, family and other supportive social networks;
* Threats, bullying and intimidation;
* Harassment, persecution, terror;
* Insults, humiliation, defamation;
* Economic violence, abuse of dependency situations,
* Damage to property, cruelty to the victim's pets, etc.
Isolation is a central strategy that violent partners use in order to maintain control over their victims, to weaken them and to prevent them from seeking help. Typical methods of isolation include denying a woman any contact with her relatives or friends, shutting her in at home, denying her to leave the house alone, denying her to use the phone, etc.
Threats, bullying and intimidation are frequent forms of psychological violence. Typically, threats and bullying include statements such as: I'll kill you if you leave me; I'll kill the whole family if you call the police; you'll pay dearly if you tell anybody; I'll take the children away; the welfare officer will take the children away from you.
Control, harassment and psychological terror, such as repeated phone calls, phone calls during the night, threatening letters, spying on the victim and persecution of her at work and at home: Such forms of violence are also referred to as stalking. They are used both within relationships in order to maintain control over the victim and to intimidate her.
Insults, humiliation and defamation aim to destroy the victim's self-confidence and mental health. In the course of time, the woman concerned will cease to have faith in herself, her worth and her identity and will no longer believe that she has any rights and may take decisions herself. This kind of violence includes exposing the victim to ridicule and making insulting comments about her appearance or her character. Typical humiliating statements are that the woman is mad or mentally ill, that she is making things up or that she is in danger of committing suicide.
A term which encompasses a wide variety of abuses, including rape, sexual threats, exploitation, humiliation, assaults, molestation, domestic violence, incest, involuntary prostitution (sexual bartering), torture, unwanted or noxious insertion of objects into genital openings, and attempted rape. Some have also considered female genital mutilation and other traditional practices (including premature marriage, which increases maternal morbidity and mortality) as forms of sexual and gender-based violence. Sexual abuse manifests itself in acts or threats of physical intrusion of a sexual nature, whether by force or under unequal or coercive conditions. This includes, but not limited to: attempted or committed rape, any forced and non-consensual sexual act, as well as sexual behaviour that the victim finds humiliating and degrading.
A term that refers to inequality in the access to and control of the family resources. This may mean that the husband's maintenance payments are insufficient and/or that he makes his income, his property and/or his expenses a secret.
Note for NGOs
It is difficult to talk about violence one has had to suffer, in particular sexual violence. Agencies that provide help must be aware of this and cannot take it for granted that victims will readily talk about their abuse or even go into great detail. It is essential to be sensitive towards victims, to acknowledge the fact that they did decide to take steps for themselves, and to encourage them to talk about violence. This requires a relationship of trust. The women concerned must be sure that the information they provide will not be misused or even used against them.
Definitions Concerning Violence Against Women