Psychology and Gender Violence

Psychology and Gender Violence

Although there is more talk about gender violence every day, there are still many people who do not know exactly what this form of violence refers to or have a slightly wrong idea about it.

To understand the seriousness of this type of violence, last year 2018, there were 47 fatalities of sexist violence in Spain. Therefore, it is interesting to perform an analysis of this term to dispel any doubt.


  • 1 What is gender violence?
  • 2 Why are men not included in gender violence?
  • 3 Can Psychology fight against this scourge?

What is gender violence?

Organic Law 1/2004 of December 28 refers to gender violence as “the most brutal symbol of inequality in our society. It is a violence that is directed at women for the very fact of being so, because they are considered, by their aggressors, lacking the minimum rights of freedom, respect and decision-making capacity ”.

In turn, in Royal Decree-Law 9/2018, of August 3, on urgent measures for the development of the State Pact against gender violence, this type of violence is defined as “the cruelest manifestation of inequality and the power relations of men over women. Is about a violence of a structural nature that is directed against women by the very fact of being. This violence undermines the enjoyment of their human rights and fundamental freedoms and it is an obstacle to the full realization of equality between women and men. ”

Therefore, this Law and this Royal Decree already give us an idea that gender-based violence is a type of violence exerted by men over women simply because they are women. Therefore, we are talking about a type of violence with a determining cultural burden, since it occurs in a systemic way, not in a timely manner, but rather there is an educational, cultural and social base background, called machismo.

Gender-based violence encompasses all physical, psychological, sexual, symbolic, economic and social action that takes place on the part of a man towards a woman, within the framework of a sentimental relationship (present or past).

Why are men not included in gender violence?

Those who are not yet familiar with this form of violence may ask this question. There are few people who have expressed their misunderstanding for carrying out a series of educational, legal and criminal actions to end violence against women. However, it would be useful to reflect on the structural nature of this type of violence.

It is precisely the structural nature of this violence that prevents men from being considered victims of gender violence. The specificity and the reason for this form of violence (of the man over the woman, by the mere fact of being a woman) makes it completely incompatible that there are men who can be included in this type of violence as victims, since it is a specific violence directed towards women.
As it is a constant, frequent manifestation, which claims many victims and is considered as a real social scourge, gender violence has and must have its own entity, legally, politically and socially.

Can psychology fight against this scourge?

Psychology has powerful weapons to fight against this scourge. Mainly through two ways: education and psychological intervention.

In education, it is especially important to raise awareness about the importance of affective-sexual education during all stages of childhood and adolescence. Because it is important? In the first place, it is important in all stages of life, but if there is a critical stage it is that of childhood and especially adolescence, because in this time of our life, we live many physical, psychological and social changes that go to determine who we will be in the future.

To incorporate educational interventions in childhood and adolescence aimed at promoting equalityGood treatment, healthy relationships and respect for diversity is crucial. In fact, it is here that this type of learning can be incorporated by boys and girls into their mental schemes, their way of understanding the world and society.

If such work is carried out by a psychologist or a psychologistIt is very important that you have training in affective-sexual education. The most recommended training for this series of interventions is that provided by Sexology, since it is a discipline that studies the sexes and everything that surrounds them.

On the other hand, psychological interventions in cases of sexist violence are very important. To understand the importance of these interventions, we must know that gender violence in the couple occurs in a cyclical way.

The cycle of gender violence

The cycle of gender violence is precisely what makes it hard for a woman to ask for help and end this relationship. This cycle has the following phases:

  • Voltage phase: The aggressor begins to accumulate tension and begins episodes of contempt or unexpected reactions on the part of the woman and its intensity rises in a progressive way.
  • Explosion phase: In this phase there is a series of violent behaviors, whether physically, psychologically or of any other kind, on women.
  • Honeymoon or Regret Phase: The aggressor shows repentance, asks for forgiveness, usually making the promise that he will change and that what has happened has been isolated or the result of circumstances outside the aggressions and even himself.

During the explosion phase is when the woman victim of gender violence usually asks for help. Many women are not aware that they are immersed in this cycle of violence, so the work of the psychologist or psychologist is very important at this point.
Strengthening the woman's decision to end the relationship is also important, and has the purpose of decreasing the likelihood of re-entering the cycle, especially when the phase of violence explosion is followed by the repentance phase, and it is in this phase where many women in situations of abuse consider going backwards in his decision to end the relationship, because the abuser makes promises of change, and may end up giving the battered woman enough hope to believe that it is worth giving her a chance.

The helplessness learned

The learned helplessness: a key concept in gender violence
If there is a psychological concept that is especially important in gender violence, it is learned helplessness. The learned helplessness is a psychological state characterized by passive behaviors based on the conviction that whatever is done is done, you will not be able to change absolutely anything about the situation. Why is this concept present in gender violence? Because episodes of abuse, especially in the explosion phase, occur regardless of what the woman does. With which, the woman learns that, whatever she does, she will be mistreated.

When this learned helplessness is lived, your life is no longer the same, because you perceive that you have lost control over it or much of it. This is one of the reasons that makes it difficult for women who suffer ill-treatment to ask for help, because a person who feels that he has lost control of his life will hardly have the strength and motivation to end the dynamics of abuse.

Further, self-esteem is very depleted in these situations. In fact, women who suffer sexist violence may come to perceive their reality in such a different way that they choose to stay with him, even if he mistreats them. Such is the alteration of reality due to the loss of self-esteem, which people tend not to leave the abuser for fear of not finding anyone better than him, and even for believing that they don't deserve someone better.

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