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November 25: Int. Day 'Elimination of Gender Violence against women and girls'

21 Nov 2018

The EU has assessed that psychological violence against women in close relationships affects about 43% of the female population, in addition/cumulative with physical and sexual violence whose impact is assessed by the WHO for around 30%.

EFPA, the European Federation of Psychologists’ Associations together with ECPA, the European Association of Community Psychology and the Standing Committee on Community Psychology, join the UN in celebrating the 25th of November as a worldwide International Day for the Elimination of Violence against women.

The European Union has assessed that psychological violence against women in close relationships affects about 43% of the female population, in addition/cumulative with physical and sexual violence whose impact is assessed by the WHO for around 30%. 

Violence within relationships usually results in coercion and comprises controlling behaviours, verbal abuse, and economic control, in addition to physical assault. In fact, injury is not the most common physical health outcome of gender-based abuse; however “psychological disorders” are a reality for a significant number of women.

Psychological consequences of abuse are sometimes more serious than its physical effects. The experience of continuing abuse erodes women’s self-esteem and increases the risk of a variety of mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder, suicide, self-harm, cutting, alcohol and drug abuse, and other forms of distress.

Psychologists are active in psychological assessment, risk evaluation and support of women and girls who have been victimized by gender violence and work also with the orphans of femicide. 

With a focus on preventive interventions, psychologists actively participate in programs to prevent violence in schools promoting gender equality education in behaviour and the expression of feelings; they also work with young offenders and bullies, considering that some of the offenders themselves might have also been victimized. 

Psychologists also support volunteer work and associations against violence, providing consultation, training and supporting the organization of self-help groups, and self-representation groups for the advancement of services and supports adequate for the survivor’s empowerment and recovery. 

Psychologists play major roles in emergency units, crisis intervention houses and other support services in many European countries, and have a central role in judicial procedures, including juvenile courts, criminal and civil courts for their expertise in legal psychology, especially required in procedural and regulatory requirements against perpetrators of violence involving families, including children and youth. Finally, psychologists play a role in juvenile and adult prisons, with a diagnostic and therapeutic-reparative function towards detained offenders.

EFPA points out the importance of giving health professionals, both in hospital settings and in general practice, the skills and training to increase their awareness and understanding of the forms and dynamics of domestic violence and gender violence, and to develop procedures for handling such cases most effectively. 

Psychologists could have more intervention roles in the Emergency Departments (ED) where women come with severe injuries, but the link between injuries and domestic violence is rarely recognised.  Pilot projects suggest that training programmes, and the introduction of procedures and protocols relating to detect and manage assault cases, and injury screening have significant effects on the identification of abused women and on a correct response to their needs. The psychological report in cases of domestic violence is useful for identifying and predicting domestic violence and its effects on health.  

Psychologists indeed work in supporting social, education and health personnel in taking care and developing resilience, and have a significant role in working for the constitution of  safe and respectful environments where women can freely express themselves phisically and emotionally and interact with all human beings without any sort of coercion. Appropriate tools for violence screening and intervention are still lacking in most health facilities, especially in emergency departments where the largest number of women victims of violence by intimate partners are observed, but where medical observations are limited to assessing only physical damages. 

Following these considerations EFPA and ECPA underline the need:

  • to promote professional and social awareness about gender violence against women among psychologists, and all social and health professionals;
  • to establish specific gender guidelines in the EDs and in all public and private services (anti-violence associations, legal consultancy and support experts, Police, Social Services, Ordinary and Specialized Courts) to create a pathway focusing on all the effects of violence.  
  • to develop training programs aimed at improving staff attitudes and knowledge about battered women, and at developing integrated medical and psychological protocols, and at the same time promoting community awareness and strategies to deal with these events. 


  1. Maria Vargas Moniz – President of ECPA (European Community Psychology Association)
  2. Nicholas Carr – Convenor of EFPA Standing Committee on Community Psychology
  3. Caterina Arcidiacono – ECPA and EFPA Standing Committee on Community Psychology

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