“My soul hurts”: Psychological violence leaves a deep emotional mark on women

“My soul hurts”. The psychologists Joffe and Sandler noted in 1967 that this type of pain that is sometimes felt corresponds to the emotional one, of psychological origin. It is much more complex to understand than back, side or any other pain that has a specific duration and is treated on a physical level.

Emotional pain lasts longer and, likewise, its treatment must be psychological. However, it is a pain that often goes unnoticed and occurs to a greater extent in women who have suffered violence.

Thus, as recognized by the UN, not all types of violence against women they are the same, but they all must be treated since they leave a much more negative and lasting impression even than the physical one. In fact, a study published in 2006 on the Journal of women´s health It proves that it is easier to recover from physical abuse than from psychological violence, and that it produces a deterioration in the health of women that leaves a lasting mark and that it deserves much more attention than is offered.

In this study, they found, three years later, that the physical (somatizations) and mental health of women who had suffered physical violence had improved more than in victims of psychological violence.

It is the most frequent variant in intimate partner violence

Despite being considered a public health problem by WHO and legal efforts to strengthen the assistance resources to women victims of gender violence, the reality is that psychological violence is the most frequent variant among the forms of violence against the partner. Moreover, we can affirm that it is the first type of violence, since the behaviors that indicate the existence of violence in the partner begin with the intention of controlling the victim by attacking their emotional integrity, in order to produce intimidation, devaluation, feelings of guilt or suffering, among others, which can then increase towards more physical violence.

Different types of psychological affectation are observed in the symptoms of battered women, such as a higher prevalence of anxiety disorders, phobias, depression, sexual dysfunctions and various alterations in personality traits that can reach the extreme of substance use and suicide attempts , which is also found to be aggravated in situations of health emergencies.

But are all women vulnerable to psychological violence? One of the most silent effects has to do with self-esteem, which is strongly affected due to psychological and physical abuse. However, it is also true that women who already have lower self-esteem are in turn more vulnerable to violence.

This self-esteem is built from childhood, proving in women that Previous experiences Violence observed, suffered or socio-structural factors such as unequal education or teaching of values ​​of submission in women, predict the probability of suffering violence in adulthood.

These psychological damages do not only occur in women who suffer gender violence. Kendall-Tackett et al. analyzed the psychological impact of women who suffer violence, both in childhood and as adults, due to gender violence or other types of violence, and found an absence of differences in the symptoms manifested. In other words, psychological violence does not distinguish between age or form, but it is more frequent, strong and lasting in women.

This occurs because we have educational and social models based on stereotypes in which women are expected to be more submissive, dependent, devoted… Increasing their vulnerability to violence at different stages of their life.

Thus, not all women are equally vulnerable, but it is true that certain contexts favor women, more than men, to suffer violence, mainly psychological violence. Among these situations is observing scenes of violence or suffering some type of abuse in childhood or adolescence.

Fortunately, today the need to treat psychological violence suffered through vicarious violence is recognized and denounced. This violence is understood as one more form of psychological violence, where there are different mechanisms of coercion such as, for example, instrumental violence or violence to the mother through harm to children, so it becomes a new type of violence. strategy and tool for psychological violence against women.

The difficulty, in addition, of detecting this violence has to do with the use of codes that only the woman detects, since it recognizes that certain speech, questioning or words that her sons or daughters use belong to the abuser. Therefore, this vicarious violence it leaves a mark with serious psychological effects on both women and children.

How will it affect the woman’s future relationships?

Women who suffer violence, if they do not receive psychological care, often repeat the pattern of victim with other people, friends, partner, family. Their low self-esteem, level of emotional dependence and other difficulties acquired in episodes of psychological violence persist in the relationship that caused it (parents, social environment, first partners…).

They are more vulnerable to maintaining future affective relationships where there is a dynamic of violence, since this is what they learned as “normal” and they have learned it by imitation. We can ask ourselves if this learning will not be the same in all sons and daughters.

Indeed, this learning or perception of “normality” occurs in both men and women, but the most likely consequences in the case of men is a tendency to increase sexism with age and a normalization of the dysfunctional models witnessed; while women tend to perpetuate the behavior of submission, passivity and dependence in later generations.

If they do not receive psychological help, this imprint will last in their future relationships and also in other settings, given that this emotional and cognitive affectation or psychological imprint makes social adaptation difficult, generating problems of interaction and social and work rejection or even mother-child relationship, in the case of having children.

Get over time

People have a great capacity for recovery, resilience and adaptation, but time does not cure everything. We can overcome, reduce the footprint of psychological violence, but this will depend fundamentally on individual strengths and options for help.

It has been proven that early detection and multidisciplinary specialized early intervention is key to recovery from minors exposed to gender violence. There are different factors of protection that help reduce damage.

The key is psychosocial help and psychological intervention. It is necessary to work on the eradication of gender stereotypes (which promote submission and emotional dependence of girls and women), in the visibility of the problem and in the work of recovery of all the victims, attending to the different consequences according to gender.

It has been proven that some psychosocial factors such as having greater resilience or emotional intelligence They help prevent violence and allow you to recover more quickly.

However, this problem is so complex and involves so many actors and decisions that it is difficult to set a specific period of time (from one or two years after a total break with the abusive person, be it a mother, father, friends or partner, to the entire life rebuilding, or even recovering alone, but partially) to overcome it. But what is clear is that without help it is much more difficult.

Esther Lopez-Zafra, Professor of Social Psychology, Jaen University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. read the original.


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