Psychological Effects Of Gender Violence

Psychological effects of Gender Violence

From “innocent jokes” to assuming that a woman is unaware of a certain topic simply because she is: gender violence operates with such subtlety that it is shocking how accustomed we are to exercising and suffering this type of violence in our society. . This has led many women to raise their voices and denounce how naturalized micro-machismos and many other assertions based on asymmetric gender relations are. Gender violence can take different forms: physical, verbal, psychological, sexual, social, economic. In all of them, Gender violence causes severe psychological effects on victims, both in the short and long term. For this reason, in this article we will develop the main consequences of this type of violent behavior.

Gender violence: what is it?

In the first instance, it is important to determine what is meant by gender violence. This topic has been addressed from different perspectives over the last decades. For example, the UN defined gender violence at the end of the last century as “any act of sexist violence that has the possible or actual result of physical, sexual or psychological harm.” This is a globally accepted definition that has been referenced in various articles recently.

However, many authors in more recent years have noted that the most promulgated definitions in both academic and popular spheres tend to search for individual explanations for the mistreatment of women. This means that hypotheses are often made about what leads an abuser to become such, for example, maintaining that it is related to psychopathologies, aggressive personality traits, lack of anger control or an early childhood marked by abuse. His parents.

However, these meanings of the term detract from culture and social values ​​as determining factors of violence against women. Social mandates, institutions that reinforce stereotypical behaviors and power relations cause many people to reproduce this type of violence over and over again, even without questioning it. This does not justify the responsibility of the aggressors, but rather highlights the fact that gender violence is not the result of the acts of an “isolated case”, a “crazy person” or a “mentally ill person”, but is born from a society. and culture that systematically uses violence as an available resource to exercise control over women. In that sense, Francisca Expósito launches in an article published in 2011 the slogan: “Neither aggressive nor psychopaths.” Abuse towards women is not an isolated or decontextualized phenomenon, but rather has roots in the larger structure that we have just described.

You may be interested:  I Feel Old: 3 Tips on What to Do About This Discomfort

The psychological effects of gender violence

Even when violence is carried out in a relatively subtle manner or that could go unnoticed, the psychological effects are significant. Next, we will see which are the psychological effects that have been most reported in the field of research.

1. Low self-esteem

Battered women, due to violence, have developed a negative self-concept about themselves. They tend to undervalue their needs, opinions, emotions, thoughts and projects. Let’s think that behaving submissively in relationships where aggression towards them prevails – in general, relationships; but also family or work-is a way to evade potential punishment from the abuser. As Expósito indicates, they are strategies that are adaptive in violent relationships, but that, however, in normal relationships become an obstacle.

2. Hypervigilance

Hypervigilance is a characteristic consequence of gender violence. When a woman was treated pejoratively for every action she carried out in a relationship, it is common for her to have developed a certain tendency to want to control each of her movements so as not to make any mistakes or to not cause harm to others. others. The problem is that This mechanism can lead to maladaptive behavior in other environments—for example, being very perfectionistic and/or harsh with oneself—even when this state of alertness is no longer necessary. It is one of the effects that lasts the longest and can be very difficult to uproot.

3. Anxiety

Anxiety is a mechanism that allows us to anticipate future situations thanks to the activation of a series of physiological reactions, experiences and emotional expressions that arise from our evolution when we find ourselves facing danger. In a context where violence prevails, feeling anxiety can be essential to ensure one’s own survival. However, when a woman suffered gender violence for a prolonged period of time, Anxiety may be triggered later without the need for a threatening stimulus to be nearby.

You may be interested:  How Does the Coronavirus Pandemic Influence Binge Eating Disorder?

4. Post-traumatic stress disorder

Closely related to anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is one of the main disorders suffered by victims of gender violence. In general, it occurs after one or several traumatic events in the person’s life. What is traumatic and what is not varies for each subject, but a common point is that they endanger the physical and/or mental health of a person, triggering consequences such as very intense emotional responses or the inability to process information correctly.

Victims suffering from PTSD often re-experience the traumatic situation through physiological reactions, thoughts, and vivid images. At the same time, They may appear emotionally anesthetized, detached, derealized —that is, as if they were disconnected from the world around them— or they suffer an episode of depersonalization, feeling their body “as if it were not theirs.” Living with PTSD can be very difficult and painful, but it can also be treated effectively by a team of mental health professionals.

5. Depression

Multiple investigations have concluded that violence (both psychological and physical) is a very important risk factor for depression in women. The symptoms of depression are noticeable when a person has difficulty getting out of bed or leaving the house, maintaining personal hygiene; also when she stops doing those activities that she used to enjoy or has thoughts of ruin about herself and her life on a recurring basis. Rumination is very common in depressed people and is a habit that prevents them from carrying out specific actions that could improve their mental health.

Depression can be triggered during the time of experiencing gender violence, but it can also occur afterwards, when the woman has managed to get out of that hostile relationship alive. Fortunately, there are many brief, effective treatments for depressive symptoms in this population.

You may be interested:  How to Take Care of Mental Health on a Daily Basis?

6. Alcohol and substance abuse

Finally, another consequence that many women suffer due to the gender violence that is exercised against them is the use of harmful coping strategies in the medium and long term for such a delicate situation. It is common for them to tend to abuse psychoactive substances or develop behavioral addictions in order to suppress the psychological effects of abuse.

The importance of asking for help in cases of gender violence

Getting out of a situation of abuse or gender violence is very complicated, since The power that is exerted over the victims in a sustained manner over time ensures that, on the one hand, they internalize the violence they receive. For example, they could justify the aggressor’s actions or deny the harm they suffer. On the other hand, it is difficult since there is a real threat to the integrity of the victim in cases of gender violence. It is logical that many women are afraid to end a relationship with an aggressive person for fear of his reaction.

For this reason, from our place, we believe that it is essential to highlight that a large number of countries, provinces and jurisdictions have telephone lines to request help in cases of gender violence. On the other side there is always a professional, with studies and experience, trained and willing to accompany the victims. Additionally, psychotherapists, doctors, psychiatrists, and other mental health professionals can help a woman move forward and address the psychological effects that abuse has caused.