Ways out of violence

Domestic violence – What is it?

Domestic violence describes any form of violence that occurs within a domestic environment. It is also considered domestic violence when violence occurs during dissolving the shared accommodation or after a separation. The act doesn’t have to occur within the mutual accommodation.

Domestic violence is especially physically and mentally draining, because it exists in a space that in society is regarded as a room for security and the feeling of safety – the home. Furthermore, the violence is applied by an adult with whom the affected person shares a bond of trust. Domestic violence can appear in one or multiple forms, that can be inflicted at once or consecutively.

Depending on the context, the definition of domestic violence differs. Legally the definition refers to the criminal law and the Protection against Violence Act. In addition to that, a broader psychosocial understanding of domestic violence exists. The following is based on the more extensive understanding of domestic violence.

Violence exists in many different forms. It can be differentiated in: psychological violence, physical violence, sexualized violence, economic violence, social violence and digital violence, as well as stalking. Legally, protection against violence is only provided in case of physical, sexualized and psychological violence as well as stalking.

Psychological violence

Psychological violence takes place verbally e.g., through shouting, insulting, threating with Death or suicide etc. It may also occur in the form of controlling behaviour, that is supposed to unsettle or scare the person affected by the violence. Psychological violence has consequences.

Physical violence

Physical violence describes acts of violence that are most often attributed to domestic violence, because they are most visible due to physical injuries. It includes hitting, kicking, throwing items, strangling etc. Apart from acute injuries, physical violence can also lead to chronical illnesses and psychological and psychosomatic problems. According to statistics by the German Federal Criminal Police Office in 2020, every third day a woman dies through the hand of her partner or former partner.

Sexualized violence

Forms of sexual violence in relationships can include sexualized insults, forced sexual acts against the persons will and rape. Acts as such are a criminal offence according to Section 177 StGb (German Criminal Code).

Economic violence

Economic violence describes the unfair access to financial means and the exploitation of financial superiority in a relationship. An example could be a partner, who controls or conceals all the financial means (income, assets, spendings) from a woman* or a partner. Or a partner, who provides insufficient financial resources to a woman*, who might not be employed. Sometimes women* aren’t allowed to work in the first place, or if they do work, they are forced to render their income. Economic violence also includes the prohibition of having their own bank account or forcefully having to sign credit- or sales agreements against the women’s* will. This might lead to economic dependence on the partner and hinders separation from a partner.

Social violence

Social violence includes all controlling acts that socially isolate a woman* from their social environment e.g., confinement, forbidding contacts, prohibiting further education and occupation.

Digital violence

Digital violence describes all acts of digital control regarding the woman* or her contacts. This can include extensive checking-in and calling, surveillance via a GPS motion profile, etc.


Stalking is defined as continuous harassment and threating of a person by following and ambushing along with terror via phone, mail and text. Stalking is a criminal offence under the Section 238 StGb (German Criminal Code).


Non-action is also considered a form of violence. Emotional or physical neglect is a repetitive behaviour of a care giver, that doesn’t meet the basic needs such as safety, emotional, social and physical support, cognitive stimulation and respect. This can affect children (in early childhood), disabled people or people in need of care. The care giver conveys the message that the affected person is unwanted, worthless, unloved and/or expendable.

Structural violence

Another level of violence is the structural violence. This contains social and economic disadvantages. All forms of discrimination, such as the unequal distribution of income and resources, educational opportunities and life expectancy, are part of structural violence. Structural violence affects women* to different degrees; women* with multiple discriminations (such as poverty, impairments) have more barriers to overcome.

Consequences for children

Children who experience their mother being bullied, threatened or beaten by the father or the (ex-)partner often bear mental and physical marks such as insomnia or poor concentration. The consequences vary, depending on the age of the child at the first occurrence, the duration and intensity of the violence, the gender and the relationship of the children to the adults. Other supporting persons in the social environment play an important role.

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