What is violence?

Violence against women is a serious physical and psychological offense – and a violation of women's rights and fundamental freedoms. All persons subjected to domestic violence are entitled to support and protection from society.

Violence consists of threats; physical brutality; psychological abuse; financial coercion and material destruction; negligence; sexual assault; restricted social contacts, and honor-related oppression. Domestic violence often involves physical, mental, and sexual abuse; partners or ex-partners are usually the perpetrators. Regardless of the type of violence, its purpose is the same, namely, to establish and exercise power and control by harming and frightening.

A systematic process over a prolonged period characterizes domestic violence. Breaking away from someone you loved, and maybe still love, is difficult. And many perpetrators put women in a state of dependence. Because violence is executed in close relationships and at home, persons around the victims tend make light of the violence for fear of meddling into matters that they consider private.

Various women suffer from violence in varying degrees – and they have varying opportunities to change their situations. For example: (i) disabled women and substance abusers might need more support than others and (ii) homosexuals might be isolated as a couple and thus more dependent on each other – due to homophobia.

Violence in close relationships includes parental violence against children, adult children's violence against parents, and honor-related oppression; here, several family/community members are perpetrators of violence.

Source: NCK, Unizon, National Board of Health (NCKUnizon & Socialstyrelsen

Physical brutality

Battering, bodily harm. Often perpetrators specifically target certain body parts so that bruises and other injuries are not visible. Physical abuse also results in injury to body parts that cannot be concealed.

  • Shoving, slapping, blocking
  • Strangling, smothering
  • Threatening, attacking, stabbing


Emotional, psychological, mental abuse

Verbal aggression and harassment. Isolation, emotional extortion, shaming, and exploitation of the children to exercise  control are examples of mental violence – as are threats of violence against pets. The shift between violence and loving warmth makes violence unpredictable and difficult to anticipate. All this gradually leads to psychological breakdown and problems when wanting to leave the relationship.

  • Threatening and excluding
  • Accusing, interrogating, bullying
  • Isolating, segregating


Financial & material coercion & destruction

Cruelty, denial, restriction. Economic violence may be that personal belongings are broken or destroyed intentionally. The perpetrator controls family finances and material assets – to increase isolation and vulnerability, which then makes it difficult for the victim to leave the relationship.

  • Destroying property
  • Denying economic independence
  • Prohibiting control of income and assets



Inattention, disrespect, contemptNegligence involves denial of care to persons who are mentally and physically disabled or underage. The perpetrators might refuse to (i) buy and dispense medication or (ii) provide adequate and nutritious food. The perpetrator might also mete out physical violence against body parts that are sensitive or already injured.

  • Making daily life difficult
  • Avoiding/denying sufficient help and care
  • Harming sensitive or injured body parts


Limited social sphere, restricted socially

Isolation. social vulnerability, limited networks. Perpetrators prevent victims from meeting relatives and friends or participating in social activities. As time passes the victim’s networks diminish, which eventually causes the victim to be dependent on the perpetrator. 

  • Prohibiting social engagement or activities
  • Entrapping, crimping life space
  • Forcing dependence on perpetrator

Sexual assault

Brutality, callousness, violation. Sexual violence includes grabbing breasts and genitalia, threatening, and being forced to perform sexual acts that the victim does not dare refuse.

  • Harassing and abusing, verbally and physically
  • Forcing oral and bodily (physical) actions
  • Raping

Honor-related violence and oppression

Honor-related oppression occurs because perpetrators believe that a person brought shame/dishonor on the family or violated community or religious principles. This type of violence isn’t exercised by just one person against one woman in a marital or partner relationship. Besides girls and women, LGBTTQQIAAP persons, boys, and men are victims of this type of violence. 

  • Actions inside and outside the home are limited.
  • The person is denied the right to select a partner.
  • Genital mutilation, female circumcision and forced marriage or arranged marriages are often considered to be honor-related violence and oppression.

Look familiar? Or, do you know someone exposed to violence?

Don't hesitate to contact us.


If you're exposed to violence

These and other behaviors constitute violence: Punching a fist into your belly. Penetrating you while you're sleeping. Gambling away your income. Forbidding you to leave home without permission. Constantly telling you that you're useless.

Before the first punch: Pay attention to your partner's view on women. Has your partner's behavior changed negatively since you met? Does your partner often complain about you? Does your partner monitor your activities? Jealous or controlling? Is your partner violent toward animals or objects? Has your partner become tough, threatening? Imitated blows toward you?

If you're subjected to violence: Collect evidence, keep a diary, tell someone what happened, and develop a safety and security strategy.

Contact a women's helpline:  You pay nothing to talk with us. You are anonymous, and we do not keep journals. We believe your story. We do not question your words or experiences.

File a complaint with the police: Violence in a close relationship is a crime. It may feel hard to file a report, and sometimes you might get many questions about what will happen afterward. Kvinnorjouren Kerstin (our helpline) does not force anyone to file a complaint with the police.

If you're a relative or friend ...

Being close to someone exposed to violence might be stressful and frustrating because the break-up process can take time. You can help and support in various ways.

Signs that someone you know is being subjected to violence might be traces of violence such as bruising/torn clothes. When asked how the damage occurred, the victim might hesitate or change the subject. If you notice that a person's behavior changes, for example, does not appear at agreed meetings or becomes isolated, this might be a sign that the person's partner has a major control need and is exercising violence.

Ask questions if you suspect that a person is exposed to violence by her partner -- but NEVER in the partner's presence. Listen to the person's story without questioning the experiences. Try not to normalize the violence and find excuses or explanations for the perpetrator's behavior. Show that you are there for the victim and  that you support the victim's choices.

Tell the victim that help is available. For example, suggest that the victim contacts a women's helpline or the police. It's important that what's happening is on the victim's terms and is never a forced decision. Do not criticize the victim's decision to stay in the relationship at that time, but indicate that she is worth something else.

 If children are in the picture

One in 10 is forced to experience a father or partner subjecting a mother to violence. A child, who sees the violence, needs support, based on its individual experiences and needs.

Sweden's Social Services Act states that all children up to age 18, who witnessed violence in close relationships, are considered crime victims and are entitled to (i) necessary support and assistance and (ii) compensation. If a women's helpline volunteer suspects that a child is endangered in some way, then the helpline must file a report with the proper authorities.

Children interpret and deal with violence in various ways – depending on (i) their age, gender, personal characteristics and (ii) the extent to which they have access to protection and persons whom they can trust in their surroundings.

Frequently asked questions we receive deal with custody, housing, and visitation rights. Every decision on custody, housing and visitation is based on the best interests of the child. 

Source: Unizon





Your rights

Freedom from violence is a human right. Every person subjected to violence in close relationship is entitled to support and protection from society. Your municipality has ultimate responsibility for ensuring that you receive the support and assistance that you're entitled to.

All persons are entitled to help tailored to their specific needs. Support includes: financial assistance, assistance with sheltered housing, counseling or support discussions, arranging a contact person, communicating contacts with other authorities and voluntary organizations, seeking new housing, contacts with police or judicial authorities and childcare.