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Domestic violence is not only physical abuse of a family member, but also psychological, sexual and economic abuse. Victims of domestic violence are mainly women, who often prevent shame and learned helplessness from breaking a toxic relationship. What is the mechanism of domestic violence and where can victims seek help?

Violence in the familyoccurs when a husband, wife or other family member causes physical or mental harm to the loved ones with whom he lives under the same roof. The perpetrator of domestic violence, using his advantage over the victim, tries to dominate them, intimidate them, humiliate them and force them to behave in certain ways. If the person experiencing domestic help does not react in a timely manner and free themselves from their partner's tyranny, it will become more and more difficult for them to break the vicious cycle of violence over time. Months and sometimes even years of humiliation change the victim's perception of himself - he gradually begins to take over the image of himself that the tormentor persuades. Then the only solution is to turn to institutions that have legal means to help punish perpetrators of violence.

National telephone number for victims of domestic violence: 800 12 00 02

Domestic violence: when does it happen?

You can talk about domestic violence when it meets the following features:

  • is intentional, which means that the actions of the perpetrator are conscious and intentional;
  • is a type of relationship in which one party is in subjection to the other - the perpetrator uses his physical, mental, economic or social advantage to dominate the victim;
  • is a relationship in which the perpetrator, by taking action or not acting, violates the rights and personal rights of the victim;
  • causes physical and mental harm and distress to the person who experiences violence.

Read also: Hitting children - consequences of violence against the youngest

Forms of domestic violence and its examples

There are 4 basic forms of domestic violence:

  1. Physical violence- the perpetrator violates the bodily integrity of the other person. He beats her, kicks her, tugs her, slaps her, strangles her, pushes her, restrains her, pulls her hair, pokes her, etc.
  2. Psychological violence- the perpetrator violates the personal dignity of the victim. This is the most common form of domestic violence and defines the widest range of behaviors - from everyday criticism and humiliation, to severe calling names, threats, intimidation, blackmail (e.g. taking children, suicide), harassment, tracking, prohibition (e.g. leaving home, contacting with family, friends).
  3. Sexual violence- the perpetrator violates the sexual sphere of the victim, ie forces them to intercourse by force or threats, rapes or induces other sexual practices against her will. Sexual violence also includes commenting on the appearance of another person, making fun of them, judging their sexual performance, etc.
  4. Economic violence -the perpetrator violates or neglects the victim's property. This type of violence includes behavior such as stealing, deliberately damaging someone else's property, taking money, documents, borrowing into a joint account without the other person's knowledge or permission, forcing them to pay off debts, selling off common property without prior agreement, etc. neglect of children by their parents - failure to provide them with decent living conditions, depriving them of food and clothing, lack of care in illness, lack of mental and material support.

The easiest way to prove before a court is the use of physical violence in the family, the most difficult - mental one. The latter is also much less frequently reported to law enforcement agencies, because often victims are not aware that someone is harming them mentally. They treat threats, insults or harassment from a loved one as an element of everyday life, hence the lack of a firm reaction.

Read also: ACA syndrome (adult children of alcoholics) - symptoms and principles of therapy

Worth knowing

The perpetrators of domestic violence are mostly men

Gentlemen are much more likely to perpetrate domestic violence than ladies. According to the police statistics for 2016, the number of Blue Card procedures initiated (only by the police, not by all authorized entities) (the procedure is initiated when domestic violence has occurred) was 91 789. Among the suspected perpetrators there were 68 321 men and 5,461 women. As for the victims, 66,930 of them are women, 10,636 are men and 14,223 are minors1 .

I am a victim of domestic violence - what should I do?

Committing psychological or physical violence against a family member is a crime punishable by up to 5 years' imprisonment. If there are acts of domestic violence, the victim should as soon as possiblereact:

  • call the police- services are obliged to intervene in the event of suspected domestic violence. If the perpetrator behaves aggressively, the police may arrest you for 48 hours.

The list of organizations helping victims of domestic violence is available at:

  • collect evidence of violence- for this purpose, a forensic examination should be performed, which can even be carried out by an ordinary family doctor. He issues a certificate which should include a description of the victim's he alth, types and causes of injuries. If the violence is continuous, you should not hide its physical traces on the body from your relatives and friends - the more people know about it, the more witnesses and the greater the chances of punishing the perpetrator.
  • go to institutions that provide assistance to victims of domestic violence- they have professional legal assistance that a victim can use to bring his abuser to court. Employees of the institution help in contacts with the police, prosecutor's office and take part in court proceedings.

Read also: Child molestation - consequences and detection of abuse

Stages of domestic violence

Victims of domestic violence can not admit their suffering for years and thus protect the aggressor from criminal liability. Their passivity is partly explained by the fact that the perpetrator is the person closest to them, most often their husband or partner, which makes them ashamed of the reaction of the environment to the accusation of violence. They also hope for their partner's internal transformation all the time, because aggression on his part is not continuous and is interspersed with periods of peace and even happiness. These changes illustrate the successive phases of domestic violence:

  1. Tension build-up phase- the partner becomes irritable, more and more things annoy him, often verbally attacking his partner, initiating quarrels. The victim tries at all costs to calm him down and justify his behavior.
  2. The phase of acute violence- the perpetrator gives vent to his tension and goes mad, destroys household appliances, commits physical violence, threatens the victim, intimidates her. The slightest excuse is enough to throw him off balance and provoke him, e.g. a dinner served too late, a bad grade brought by a child from school. After experiencing violence, the victim is shocked, feels fear, but after some time tries to rationalize the partner's behavior, looks for the reasons for his outbreaks of aggression.
  3. Honeymoon phase- the perpetrator realizes that he has exceeded the limits, awakensremorse comes in him. He wants to correct his mistakes and changes beyond recognition - he is kind, affectionate, understanding, he buys his partner gifts, assures her of his feelings and promises that he will never raise his hand on her again. The partner believes in his transformation, she is happy and in love again.

The cycle repeats itself - after a period of calmness in the partner, tension increases again, which results in further brawls and physical violence. However, the hope of the honeymoon phase keeps the victim from reporting the perpetrator to law enforcement.

Read also: Violence in teen relationships

Worth knowing

Learned helplessness syndrome

Women who remain in relationships for a long time, in which domestic violence occurs, often show symptoms of the syndrome of learned helplessness. It is about accepting your position and getting used to enduring violence. The victim is aware that they have lost control of the situation and focuses only on minimizing the effects of their partner's aggressive behavior. It's a psychological factor that drives her to remain in a toxic relationship.


1. Access to data on the website:,Przemoc-w-rodzinie.html

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