Combatting psychological violence against women across the EU

Sad woman with head in hands, photo by Photoboyko/Getty Images

Photoboyko/Getty Images

Commissioned by the European Institute for Gender Equality, researchers conducted a study to help strengthen the institutional capacity of the EU and member states to combat psychological violence against women and coercive control.

What is the issue?

The EU has long recognised that violence against women is a violation of human rights, a form of intimate partner violence that has a significant negative impact on victims and society. In recent years, the EU has reinforced the legal and policy framework to violence against women, and all member states are politically committed to combatting all forms through relevant policies and measures.

Psychological violence against women (including coercive control) is pervasive – the most recent survey on violence against women found that 44 per cent of women currently or previously in a relationship had experienced some form of psychological violence. However, historically there has been a lack of comprehensive, comparable data on the phenomenon of psychological violence against women, complicated by variation in legal and statistical definitions across the EU.

How did we help?

RAND Europe carried out a study to help strengthen the institutional capacity of the EU and member states to combat psychological violence against women and coercive control. Commissioned by The European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE), the project had three key objectives:

  1. To analyse the causes and consequences of psychological violence against women and coercive control of women.
  2. To assess the criminalisation of psychological violence and coercive control across the EU Member States and provide recommendations for clarification and standardisation.
  3. To identify and analyse examples of good practice and the main hurdles in preventing psychological violence against women and coercive control across the EU member states, and to provide policy recommendations around further preventative practice at both the EU and member state level.

The study drew on a range of methods including desk research to better understand the prevalence, risk factors and consequences of psychological violence and coercive control and the barriers to prevention. Targeted desk research was also used to identify areas of best practice.

Legal analysis and expert consultation informed the mapping of relevant legislation across the EU.

Finally, we carried out an online survey of 56 policymakers and practitioners from 22 Member States working in the area of domestic violence looking at the areas of preventive practices and associated barriers.

What did we find?

Across the EU, 44% of women have experienced psychological violence from a partner in their lifetime and 26% have experience from a current partner. Further, violence perpetrated online is experienced by 1 in 10 women in the EU.

Figures like these reinforce the need to take action to prevent and respond to psychological violence against women.

At a time when digital technologies create new challenges, and increased risk factors such as economic uncertainty, it is more important than ever to address the insufficient funding for policies and initiatives tackling psychological violence and coercive control.

What can be done?

The project outlined five policy recommendations:

  1. Commit to tackling all forms of violence against women in which coercive control is a constitutive element in the upcoming EU proposal for a dedicated directive.
  2. Address psychological violence specifically, explicitly and comprehensively by aligning definitions with the Istanbul Convention.
  3. Introduce specific, targeted measures to prevent and respond to psychological violence and coercive control perpetrated online.
  4. Raise awareness and improve understanding about psychological violence and coercive control and their criminalisation.
  5. Ensure that practices are effectively and appropriately targeted to reach the most at-risk groups and those who have additional needs.