Gender violence. Violence against women.

Violence against women

Gender violence and sexist violence.

Gender violence and sexist violence

Today we can find in the audiovisual and written media, references to gender violence, sexist violence, domestic violence and family violence. Sometimes we refer to them as the same thing. There are differences and nuances between them, although sometimes they converge and overlap.

Gender violence.

As its name indicates, it refers to a type of violence that is exercised by one gender over the other. This violence indicates the struggles between women and men in the search for power. This type of violence can be carried out by both sexes, by both men and women. It is not individual violence, but collective violence, insofar as it encompasses one sex against the other.

Now, given that throughout the centuries power has almost always been on the side of the male gender, it is understandable that gender violence is understood as the violence that the male sex (patriarchy) has exercised over the female sex.

For some purists it would be more appropriate to speak of sexual violence or sexist violence. This statement is based on the fact that individuals do not have gender, but rather sex.

Sexist violence.

When we speak of sexist violence or violence against women, we refer to the violence that a man exerts against a woman. We are no longer talking about the collective supremacy of one sex over the other, but about male individuals who exercise violence against women, understood as a person not as a gender.

“It is a type of violence that is generally carried out by men who cannot bear the bonds that women tend and care for around them, family, friends, boyfriends, etc. This violence is violence directly against the man. woman’s body, although sometimes it is psychological and symbolic. It is a violence that threatens the freedom of the subject, be it this bodily, psychological or ideological-identity freedom ”. (Silva, Artenira et al. 2019).

Domestic violence

When we speak of domestic or family violence, we are referring to a specific type of violence that takes place within the family environment and in which the victims are some of the family members (mother, children). Although in most cases domestic violence is sexist violence, in other cases it can be violence by the woman against the father or against the children. Likewise, violence by children against parents is increasingly common.

Thus, we see that sexist violence can be domestic, but it can also occur outside the family environment, when the victim is not related to the aggressor. In turn, domestic violence can be sexist or feminist, although for the most part it is usually of the former type.

(1) – Demonstration against gender violence.

Gender violence is everyone’s problem.

The loop of sexist violence.

Fear paralyzes the victim, clouds his senses and prevents him from thinking. Violent people use fear as an essential tool to subdue their victim over and over again. To speak of violence is to speak of the history of humanity. Fear and violence have accompanied man since prehistoric times. We may think (for no reason) that civilization makes us less violent and that we no longer resemble cavemen at all. However, many are the authors who consider that the 20th century has been the most violent century in our history.

This violence, often irrational and senseless, has many forms of expression. It can have many nuances and can be installed in all areas of our life. But, if there is a place where it is especially harmful, it is in the family environment because, precisely there is where the personality of the future violent adult can be coined.

It is in the family where acts of sexist violence are experienced . Many children are mute witnesses of mistreatment of women and grow up “normalizing” this type of behavior. Some of them will end up being violent killer psychopaths. Most of them will become ordinary people who, in their daily settings, reproduce without great guilt, those situations that they have experienced as children.

This is how unfortunately we see that sexist violence becomes an endless loop  The abuser with his sexist violence begets future abusers. This violence against women is a cycle that must be cut, precisely in the same area where it is born: the family.

Violence against women is a historical problem.

Gender violence is not something new in our current society. We find examples of sexist violence in the Bible and in early civilizations. The saints and theologians of Christianity have on many occasions been apostles of misogyny:

“… the woman needs the man not only to beget, as happens with other animals, but even to govern them, because the man is more perfect by reason and stronger by virtue.” (Santo Tomás de Aquino. XIII century).

One of the first women to raise her voice to fight sexist violence was Abigail Adams, wife of United States President John Adams. This woman, one ahead of her time, wrote:

“The history of humanity is the history of repeated vexations and usurpations by men with respect to women, and whose direct objective is the establishment of tyranny.” (Abigail Adams. 1744-1818).

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries we already find writings with female complaints against their husbands for exercising physical violence. At the end of the 18th century, the first foundation was created to collect women who had been victims of attacks by their husbands.

In a climate of sexist violence, Mary Wollstonecraft published “Vindication of the Rights of Woman” in 1792 as a clear plea in defense of women’s rights.

(2) – Mary Wollstonecraft defender of women’s rights.

The Spanish civil code maintained that a woman could be corrected by her husband (1975). In Iraq, a law was passed (1999) that allowed the husband to kill his wife as a matter of honor.

Until 1925, the UN was not aware of the problem and decided to form a working group to address the issue of violence against women.

Various forms of gender violence.

We have to start from the base that gender violence , and more specifically sexist violence, not only responds to the classic image that immediately comes to mind: the physical aggression of a man against a woman or – its most extreme form – femicide.

Gender violence takes on many “disguises” that are not always so obvious, such as psychological harassment, economic blackmail, threats, sexual harassment, real physical persecution or in social networks, control and restrictions on social freedoms , religious and political.

In general, these forms of harassment are commonly called sexist violence , because they are actions carried out mainly by a man against a woman, without distinction of age, social condition, level of education, nationality or religion.

The sad reality is that gender-based violence is a phenomenon spread throughout the world, fundamentally linked to a key factor: any type of structural social, economic and power disparity between men and women. It depends on many causes, factors, and conditions.

Remarks on sexist violence.

There are two certain facts that must be clearly specified:

  • Although we said earlier that violence has always been present in history, we must make it clear that being violent is not part of being human by nature. Nothing is further from reality. Working to destroy that myth is a good starting point, to fight against sexist violence.
  • It is necessary (not to say essential) to emphasize that it is always possible to choose whatever the situation is being experienced. Faced with a painful situation, we can choose between denial, justification or minimization of the problem. We can look the other way, ignoring the situation, or take command by doing something to change the mentality and conception of gender relations in those places where violence against women proliferates as a normal phenomenon.

It is important to make an objective and moderately deep analysis about gender violence from different perspectives. For this reason, it seems important to us to take as a starting point the definition of violence against women as:

“Any act of gender violence that causes or may involve physical, psychological or sexual harm or suffering for women, including the threat of these acts, coercion or deprivation of arbitrary freedoms, which take place in the course of public or private life” . ( UN art.1. 1993).

However, the terms of gender violence and sexist violence describe a very complex phenomenon, underlying many forms of violence through which a large number of people are discriminated against on the basis of sex.

The most frequent forms of gender violence, although they are diverse, can be categorized as follows:

Sexual violence

It manifests itself through acts, abuse or threats to perform or suffer sexual acts against someone’s will. Sexual act refers to any contact between two bodies that is intended to satisfy the aggressor’s libido. For this reason, this violence includes acts that are not always so verifiable or detectable in the first instance: caresses, frictions or insinuations, among other things.

(3) – Sexual violence against women is a form of gender violence

Psychological violence

This is one of the most frequent forms of violence against women, both because of its generalization and because of its devastating power over the victim. Psychological violence or emotional violence includes any form of abuse and disrespect that damages the identity and psychological stability of the victim. This violence damages self-esteem and diminishes the capacities of those who suffer it to face the events of daily life.

Through a whole series of resources (insult, indifference, humiliation, harassment, infidelity) the aggressor leads the victim to the complete loss of his value as a person, to the most absolute isolation and in many cases to a deep depression that can lead to suicide.

Expressions to undermine confidence are very common: “You are too fat. Let’s see if you do some exercise ”,“ you look ridiculous in those clothes ”,“ who is going to put up with you if you leave my side? ”.

Very typical of this form of violence is the absolute control over the victim’s activities (where she goes, who she talks to, cell phone spying and calls) as well as the tendency to isolate the woman from her family environment and friends in order to make her more vulnerable and dependent on the aggressor.

It can come disguised as an excessive affection: “I love you so much …”, “I do all this for your good, because I love you …”. Psychological violence is usually accompanied by intense mental manipulation, seeking to make the victim feel guilty or ashamed. This manipulation can be so effective that the psychologically abused women themselves justify the aggressor’s behavior: “He is not a bad person. I am the one to blame for not doing things the way he likes ”.

Physical violence

Any form of intimidation or action in which physical harm is exercised responds to this type of sexist violence . Violence is not just the type of assault that requires medical intervention, but any physical contact intended to frighten and bring the victim under the control of the assailant. What should be red flags? pushing, pulling hair, pinching, slapping, twisting, putting hands on neck, depriving of medical treatment, depriving of sleep, etc. 

Verbal violence

In this case, violence against women occurs in any form or act that manifests itself verbally, for example, insults and threats, disrespectful and derogatory language, public and private humiliation. As we have seen previously, verbal attacks are one of the ways in which psychological violence manifests itself.

(4) – Gender violence can manifest itself in many ways.

Violence in the form of stalking or harassment.

Violence that appears in the form of stalking is one of the most frequent expressions of sexist violence and one of the most difficult for victims to prove. It is a form of persecution prolonged in time that manifests itself through a series of behaviors, designed to make the victim feel constantly under control and in a constant state of danger.

This violence manifests itself in many ways, for example, harassment itself (at home, in the children’s educational centers, at the victim’s work, in the Church where he attends, in the places where he goes, etc.) but also phone calls in the middle of the night, continuous messages, persecution through social networks, etc.

Economic violence.

This form of violence against women is, unfortunately, one of the most “effective” for offenders. It includes any form of control or deprivation that undermines the financial independence of the victim.

Economic violence refers to all the activities of the aggressor that directly or indirectly contribute to making the couple dependent on him, since he lacks sufficient financial means to satisfy his own subsistence needs and those of the children.

It is not only about not “giving” money, there are more subtle actions such as preventing the victim from looking for or keeping a job, not allowing her to use her salary or obsessively review how she spends, controlling all aspects of daily life management and / or not to assume the economic commitments contracted with the marriage, or informally with the coexistence.

A constant fight against sexist violence.

The truth is that despite the enormous diffusion and visibility that social organizations around the world for women to react, be alert and ask for help when they need it, there are more and more femicides, more and more women appear beaten and deprived of their freedoms.

Pathological normalization of gender violence.

There are times when it feels like a very unequal struggle, because all forms of violence cause harm and because gender violence is and must be considered in all its complexity. Thousands and thousands of stories have taught us that the longer a situation of violence against women lasts, the longer it lasts or is “allowed to pass” , the more serious it becomes and – as we pointed out at the beginning of this article – the family environment tends to normalize these actions and children begin to assimilate them as part of a reality that cannot be changed.

(5) – Protesters against sexist violence in Zaragoza (2016)

Androcentric discourse of the media.

Another phenomenon that contributes to gender violence is the so-called “ androcentric discourse of the media ”. A study by the Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona has studied this topic: “ Representation of violence against women in the Spanish press (El País / El Mundo) from a critical gender perspective”.

These two newspapers are the most widely read in Spain. Both have an important impact on the national information and political agenda. Some interesting conclusions from this study are:

“The analyzed media represent violence against women in an inaccurate and simplistic manner by attending only to its most extreme physical manifestations, underrepresented the most common forms of aggression and ignoring the rest of the problems of gender discrimination.” (Vallejo, C. 2005).

In another of her conclusions, the author points out that

” The informative treatment of the subject systematically excludes the ideological and structural aspects of violence against women “

And he adds that:

“The news analyzed builds the problem from the exclusive and exclusive gaze of the male, western, educated, heterosexual and upper-middle class” citizen “. (Vallejo, C. 2005).

 The values ​​and beliefs of this group would be a representation of the entire society. This would exclude all people who do not fit this prototype.

“The ideological patterns that shape the representation of aggression against women have an impact on the invisibility of the abuser and the silencing of the victim.” (Vallejo, C. 2005).

The author considers that only violence related to intimacy is taken into account, whose responsibilities point to the personal and private sphere. This would remove the focus from many other forms of gender-based violence.

Testimonies of sexist violence.

Testimonies of sexist violence.

We quote below some testimonies of women victims of sexist violence . Many (if not all) of the forms of gender violence that we categorized before appear in these stories .


Elena is an adult woman, living with her three children. Basic studies and humble housing. Victim of mistreatment shortly after getting married.

”  I was taught since I was little that dirty clothes are washed at home, so for a long time I did not dare to seek help, I believed that home problems should be kept secret .” (Elena).


“What the abuser does is that he isolates you, eliminates you as a person, he despises you so much… and on top of that he makes you feel guilty about what is happening in the couple. In my case, I was the one who had to apologize to him, when he hit me, because he said, of course, that I behaved so badly that he had to hit me and that he had to act like that because of how bad I was. carried. And in the end I was the one who had to apologize ”. (Testimony of Ana Bella Estévez).

NO ES NO – Short against gender violence from Linze Arts on Vimeo .


“The violence always increases. After that scream, that mistreatment, if ‘you are a fool’, ‘you are not doing things well’, I apologized. And two or three months pass and he builds up tension again, gets angry about something, screams again, hits the wall … And I keep quiet again, due to panic and paralysis, because one of the feelings I had the most towards him it was terror. Terror. Terror. Afraid.” (Testimony of Antonia Ávalos Torres).


“The mistreatment that I suffered is psychological. I was married for 30 years. I was married at the age of 19 and was not aware that I was suffering psychological abuse. It was normal for me not to have a conversation with my husband, for him to make decisions without counting on me. It was normal for me that he went to fairs, to have fun with friends and that I did not go out because I had to take care of my children. Women 45 years and up, think that the world is going to sink and that is not the case. It is that I separated when I was 50 years old and the world has not collapsed. I live, I fight for my children, for my house, for my family. Before, I was dead, I had no life and now, well, I feel alive, I feel capable of carrying out a project ”. (Testimony of Carmen Viduera).


Clara was raped as a teenager. In her story, she reviews what she experienced the day after the sexual attack to which she was subjected, with these words:

“That morning I went to the bathroom and bathed like never before, I wanted to get rid of all that feeling of dirt that I had on top. I was scared and ashamed to tell my mother what had happened to me, I had escaped without her permission to that disco and I felt very guilty. I thought I was to blame for what had happened ”. (Clara’s testimony).


Esther is an adult woman from a dysfunctional home, with a dominant mother and a submissive father, which is why at the time she chose to marry a man quite different from her father’s “weakling”.

“Unfortunately I never knew when this situation got out of my hands; I ended up myself becoming what I hated so much, a person, weak, subdued, manipulated, attacked, I had become my husband’s puppet. The day I reacted, I decided to abandon it, and I made a promise to myself that this would not happen to me again. “

Finally, we want to highlight the importance of losing fear of the aggressor and taking a first step. That step may be to give bad experiences a sense of learning and refuse to repeat them. In this way we can put an end to the eternal situations of abuse, accepting that we are in a vulnerable situation and asking for help.

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Alexa Clark specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. She has experience in listening and welcoming in Individual Therapy and Couples Therapy. It meets demands such as generalized anxiety, professional, love and family conflicts, stress, depression, sexual dysfunction, grief, and adolescents from 15 years of age. Over the years, She felt the need to conduct the psychotherapy sessions with subtlety since She understands that the psychologist acts as a facilitator of self-understanding and self-acceptance, valuing each person's respect, uniqueness, and acceptance.

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