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Violence can be perpetrated by a close relative, but also by acquaintances or strangers. Violence manifests itself in different ways; in intimate relationships, as honour-related violence and oppression or as sexual violence, for example.
Domestic violence occurs in all types of relationships. Women, men and non-binary people can be victims of violence. They can also be perpetrators. The most common form of domestic violence is when a man commits violence against a woman he is or has been in a relationship with.
Violence is rarely present from the outset in relationships where it occurs. These relationships, like most others, begin with the partners falling in love. It may even be more passionate than usual, with intense courtship.
The relationship changes gradually. At first, the partner’s demands and dominance may seem innocent and harmless. But the relationship changes over time as the control and violence increase. The vulnerable person adapts and may try to avoid conflict by agreeing to demands. Many victims resist, but this often results in increased violence.
Abuse often starts off with psychological violence such as critical and derogatory comments, which make you stop believing in yourself. Then things can progress into physical violence.
It’s common to start to feel isolated and lose your social contacts and stop doing things on your own when the perpetrator dislikes your family and friends or even stops you seeing them. The victim then becomes even more dependent on their partner. In the end, the perpetrator might be the only emotional contact you have left.
Violence also occurs in close LGBTQI relationships and follows the same pattern as domestic violence in general.
As an LGBTQI person, you may feel a sense of shame at being subjected to violence and oppression by your partner. It can be difficult to get the support you need if the relationship isn’t accepted by friends and family.
Stereotypes and a lack of knowledge about intimate LGBTQI relationships can help to increase vulnerability. For example, healthcare professionals may be less alert to a woman showing signs of having been subjected to domestic violence if she seeks care in the company of another woman, or if she says she’s in a lesbian relationship. LGBTQI people may also feel that they’re not welcomed, or are dealt with less nicely by authorities and aid organisations.
Honour-related violence and oppression is a form of men’s violence against women, but with certain specific features. The violence and oppression are often carried out by several people together, and the perpetrators need not be current or former partners. Instead, they may be parents, siblings, relatives or other family acquaintances.
Most commonly, this violence occurs when a woman acts or attempts to act in a way that violates family traditions and rules about how women should behave. Hanging out with the “wrong” people, having sex before marriage, wearing the “wrong” clothes or having a sexual orientation that’s unacceptable to your family, for example. Sometimes just suspicions or rumours that something has happened are enough.
The woman may be subjected to different types of violence as a punishment, such as threats, harassment and physical abuse. In the most serious cases, the woman may be subjected to lethal violence. This violence is meant to restore the family’s reputation, or the “honour” that’s perceived to be lost.
As part of the violence and oppression, women are often tightly controlled and have limited freedom both inside and outside the home. The rules for girls and women are often much stricter than for boys and men.
Sometimes it can be difficult to draw the line between victim and perpetrator. The people who contribute to the oppression, such as mothers and young men, may themselves be vulnerable. Not only women and girls are subjected to honour-related violence and oppression: boys, men and non-binary people can be, too.
Sexual violence can range from humiliation and harassment to rape. It can also involve forcing someone to perform different types of sexual acts, or to be sexually violated in some other way.
Sexual offences legislation, the Consent Act, is based on the principle that sex must be voluntary, otherwise it’s a crime. Voluntary sex means that a person has consented to a sexual act in words, or with their body language. Anyone who wants to have sex must always find out whether the other person really wants to be involved. If in doubt, ask. Anything other than a yes is a no. Obviously, you can’t force a yes with threats, violence or nagging. It’s also illegal to have sex with anyone who’s in a particularly vulnerable situation, such as someone who’s asleep or under the influence of alcohol or drugs and can’t be regarded as participating voluntarily. The same applies if the person is under 15 years of age. It’s important to remember that people always have the right to change their minds. What feels right at first can change and result in you no longer wanting to do that. Continuing a sexual act against a person who no longer wants to participate is a crime.
The crime of exposing children to violence was introduced on 1 July 2021, making it a punishable offence to expose children to certain criminal acts in close relationships, such as violent and sexual offences.
Growing up in a home where a parent is a victim of violence is a form of psychological violence, which for most children can have very adverse effects on their health.
Violence has a direct impact on the health and well-being of children. Many children also feel shame and guilt about their situation. Children who grow up with violence in their daily lives may have altered behaviour, problems with sleeping, eating disorders, poor or highly developed social skills (taking responsibility, becoming an adult prematurely, overachieving). Children who experience violence may also develop anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Children themselves can also be victims of physical, psychological and sexual violence.