Module 1: Forms and dynamics of domestic violence

1. Definitions
2. Excursus – Gender
3. Most common forms of violence in the context of domestic violence
4. Special types of violence in the context of domestic violence
5. Victims of domestic violence
6. Perpetrators of domestic violence


Welcome to introductory Module 1 on “Forms and dynamics of domestic violence”. Module 1 will give you an overview on the various forms of domestic violence (DV). It will provide the theoretical background on this topic with a special focus on vulnerable victim groups such as e.g. people with disability, elderly or LGBTIQ+ individuals. Information on perpetrators of DV will be shared as well. By the end of this module, you will have a profound understanding of the multifaceted nature of domestic violence, its forms, victims and perpetrators of DV. This knowledge is needed to identify victims (Module 2), communicate well (Module 3) and assess risk (Module 5)

Learning objectives

+ Understanding domestic violence and its different forms and its theoretical background.
+ Understanding the significance of sex and gender aspects in domestic violence for first-line responders.
+ Understanding which DV victim groups are in particularly vulnerable and related context.
+ Understanding who are the perpetrators and why do they become abusive.

‘Domestic violence is more than being beaten up, it’s more than not allowing you to see your friends; not allowing you your own money; it’s controlling your life in every possible way; no one can see it.’

‘Intimate partner violence is not the specificity of the poor and uneducated, like many people misbelieve. The wife of a well-known politician was sheltered here. Upper middle-class family. The husband was a well-respected community leader and a churchman. Some people knew what was happening behind closed doors. Kids had to witness how the father raped the mother. He even peed on the kids as a punishment for misbehaving. The man was so influential in his city that the Guardianship office refused to help when they realised that his name is involved. It was almost hopeless for the wife to escape from her prison, because most people would not believe her and those who believed her didn’t dare to help her.‘

Further tasks for reflection

(1) After reading both quotes, think about the ways in which you may have encountered the terms domestic violence and abuse so far. How do you define domestic violence and abuse? What does it mean to you and are you aware of any other terms used to describe the same phenomenon?

(2) You may wish to make some brief notes and return to these as you continue reading. As you see the different definitions, reflect whether this would change anything about your initial views on this topic.

1. Definitions

Violence can happen to anyone of any race, age, sexual orientation, religion, or sex/gender. It affects people from all socio-economic backgrounds and education levels.

Domestic violence (DV)

Domestic violence, also called “domestic abuse” is defined by the United Nations as a pattern of behaviour in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and exert control over an individual within a family or household.

  • It can occur between couples, same sex couples, parent and child, siblings, uncles, aunts, cousins, grandparents or even roommates.
  • Violence can include physical, sexual, emotional, economic or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person in a negative way.
Intimate partner violence (IPV)
Image by freepik

Intimate partner violence refers to behaviour within an intimate relationship that causes physical, sexual, economic, social or psychological harm, including physical aggression, sexual coercion, psychological abuse and controlling behaviours.

An intimate relationship may refer to a victims’ current or previous partner, spouse, living companion, or dating partner, regardless if they are living together in the same household or not.

Intimate partner violence is one of the most common forms of violence against women and occurs in all settings and among all socioeconomic, religious, and cultural groups. However, intimate partner violence against males can occur as well and is significantly being underreported.

Gender-based violence (GBV)
Image by pch.vector on Freepik

Gender-based violence is defined as violence directed against a person because of gender. Women, men, LGBTQI+ people (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender queer, intersex) and other people who do not fit into the heterosexual norm or traditional gender binary categories.

Some Examples:
• Domestic violence
• Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C)
• Femicide – murder of women
• Forced Marriage

The Istanbul Convention (Council of Europe, Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence) frames gender-based violence and violence against women as a gendered act which is ‘a violation of human rights and a form of discrimination against women’.

2. Excursus – Gender

Learning objectives
The knowledge about sex and gender aspects in domestic violence is of major importance to first line responders. A deeper understanding of sex/gender aspects will help to differentiate between various types of domestic violence more appropriately, and accordingly adjust agency responses. Here you will find information about gender in general and specialised knowledge for the health sector as frontline responder.

“50 women in Europe die from
male domestic violence every week”

Please click on the crosses below each term in the illustration to see its definition.

You will find more information on “Stereotypes” in Module 8.

The importance of intersectionality

In the context of gender, understanding intersectionality is of extreme importance, as it allows us to recognize and address the unique and overlapping experiences of individuals who belong to multiple marginalized groups.

“There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle
because we do not live single-issue lives”

Audre Lorde, Black Feminist Lesbian Activist
Definition of intersectionality

Social categorisations such as e.g. race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class are interconnected and are assigned to a given individual or group. Intersectionality describes how these categories “intersect”, either reinforcing or reducing the likelihood of experiencing systemic oppression, different forms of discrimination and inequalities.

Further tasks for reflection
Please watch the video and make notes to the following questions:

(1) Name some examples of intersectionality.
(2) In what ways have you observed or experienced privilege or discrimination based on the intersection of your own social categories?
(3) Reflect how intersectionality can affect access to opportunities, resources, and representation in various fields or settings (e.g., education, employment, media, health sector).
(4) Have you ever been in a situation where you witnessed someone experiencing discrimination due to the intersection of their various categories? How did you respond, and what could have been done differently?

For further information on stereotypes and bias see Module 8.

Knowledge assessment:

3. Most common forms of violence in the context of domestic violence

Domestic violence can take many forms and is often not recognised as such by the victim.

‘At the time I felt that it was not really abuse but the longer I thought about it the more I felt that it was abused. Emotional abuse is more severe than physical abuse as there are no outward marks or bruises. When this was realised by myself, I got out. Living alone is far better than what was happening in the relationship.’

Please click on the crosses below each term in the corresponding circles to see its definition.

Further task for reflection
(1) Which of the listed most common forms of domestic violence have been unknown to you?
(2) Which of the listed most common forms of domestic violence surprised you to see listed here and why?

4. Special types of violence in the context of domestic violence

Task for reflection
Before you read the next part, take some time to think about the next two questions:
(1) What special types of violence comes to your mind which have not discussed in section 3 (most common forms of violence)?
(2) What do you associate with Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C)? Do you believe that is also an issue in your country?

Child, early and forced marriage
Image by Freepik

Child marriage is when at least one of the parties is a child (younger than 18 years – in some regions younger than 16 years).
Early marriages involve a person aged below 18 or marriages where both spouses are 18 or older but other factors make them unready to consent to marriage, e.g., their level of physical, emotional, sexual, and psychosocial development.
Forced marriage is any marriage which occurs without the full and free consent of one or both of the parties, where one or both of the parties is/are unable to end or leave the marriage, or as a result of duress or intense social or family pressure.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C)

“At least 700,000 women and girls live with the
lifelong consequences of FGM/C in Europe”

Description: An overview, the impacts, and the different forms of FGM/C.
If you don’t see the video here, please use another browser or click here:
What is FGM/C?

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) also known as Female Genital Cutting (FGC) and female circumcision, is a severe breach of human rights, violating the right to physiological and psychological integrity.

More than 200 million girls and women alive today have been subjected to female genital mutilation. FGM/C happens in a context of traditional norms and beliefs and also exists in Europe.

It intentionally alters or injures the female external genitalia for non-medical reasons and is mostly performed against the will of the woman or girl. It takes away control over their bodies, their sexuality, and their right to have basic bodily functions free from infections and pain. Thus, FGM/C is a manifestation of gender-based inequality and discrimination and violates human rights.

Is FGM/C a problem in Europe?

FGM/C is a worldwide issue, which also exists in Europe. It is estimated that 190,000 girls and women in 17 European countries are at risk of being mutilated and that over 600,000 women in Europe are living with the consequences of FGM/C.

Here you will find an interactive map on FGM/C in Europe:

Has the COVID-19 pandemic reduced the risk of FGM/C?

Whilst the COVID-19 pandemic has reduced the ability to travel for FGM/C practices, it has not stopped the practice from being performed in secrecy. It has increased the vulnerability of girls and women, including those at risk of FGM/C, and has exacerbated existing gender inequalities, economic disparities and health risks and disrupted prevention efforts. The COVID-19 pandemic has made it more difficult for women and girls to access psychological support and medical care if needed.

In general, humanitarian and emergency settings such as conflict and climate change increase women’s and girls’ vulnerability to violence, including harmful practices such as FGM/C. Over half of the countries where girls are at the highest risk of undergoing FGM/C are experiencing humanitarian emergencies, including conflict.


Intensifying global efforts for the elimination of female genital mutilation: Infographic and recommendations (2022)

Sexual exploitation/forced prostitution

The term ‘sexual exploitation’ means any actual or attempted abuse of a position of vulnerability, differential power, or trust for sexual purposes, including, but not limited to, profiting monetarily, socially, or politically from the sexual exploitation of another. Some types of ‘forced prostitution’ can also fall under this category.

Honour-related violence

Honour-related violence (also HRV, honour violence, honour-based violence) describes any form of

physical (battery, rape, murder, FGM/C),
psychological (mental pressure, threatening, deprivation of personal liberty) or
other forms of violence (e.g., restricted movement, restricted circle of friends, coercive control, forced marriage)

that is carried out within the family or the community in the name of ‘family honour’.
It is important to note that also men, boys and persons identifying themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or transsexual may experience honour related violence and psychological pressure.

Honour-related violence is collective violence. Although an individual community member would not approve of the community norms, it may be extremely hard for the individual to challenge them.

Femicide – Gender-related killings of women and girls

Gender Dimesnsion of homoicide
Source: UNODC Report on gender-related killings of women and girls, 2021

Femicide (=feminicide) is defined as the killing of women and girls because of their gender. 56% of victims of femicide are killed by their current and former partners, or family members such as fathers, brothers, mothers, sisters because of their role and status as women.

Femicide often involves ongoing abuse in the home, threats or intimidation, sexual violence or situations where women have less power or fewer resources than their partner (1).

Female honour killing

“Female honour killing is a particular form of femicide, where the killing of a woman is perpetrated by a member or members of her family who do not approve of her social behaviour in general and her sexual behaviour in particular.” (2)

more than 5 women and girls are killed every hour
Parent abuse by child and adolescents (CAPVA)

“I’ve been in a predicament where I have hurt my mum and she’s reached out to the police, but she didn’t want to see her daughter locked up or taken from her. But she felt like she needed help and she didn’t get that help. Fortunately, I made the change for myself after realising [the gravity] of the situation, but that’s not always the case.”

Young women (1)

Child and Adolescent to Parent Violence and Abuse (CAPVA) describes a dynamic in which a young person (aged 8-18 years) engages in abusive behaviour toward a parent or adult caregiver and in which the abusive behaviour is harmful and repeated. This abuse may be physical, verbal, financial, coercive or emotional and may include behaviours such as hitting, making threats, scaring them into doing or not doing things, or causing damage in the home. (2)

CAPVA often occurs as a gendered form of violence with the majority of cases known to services involve boys in their late teens who abuse their mothers. (1)

Find more information on CAPVA in Module 2.

Reproductive coercion

Reproductive coercion is behaviour that interferes with the autonomous decision-making of a woman, with regards to reproductive health. It may take the form of birth control sabotage, pregnancy coercion, or controlling the outcome of a pregnancy (1).

Some examples of reproductive coercion:
• Forcing or pressuring the victim to become pregnant, have a baby or an abortion
• Denying access to contraception
• Knowingly passing on a sexually transmitted infection to the victim
• Preventing or limiting access to obstetric/ gynaecological health services and information

Domestic violence can take many forms. Learn more about it through the comic campaign “How to recognise domestic violence” by the EU project IMPROVE:

Icon made by Freepik from