Interview with a psychologist expert in cases of gender violence
The issue of gender violence is still topical. Year after year, society regrets the scourge of physical abuse within families. Although in the last decade the data of mortal victims have been reduced timidly, this beginning of year 2016 is being especially dismal: There are eight women who have been killed at the hands of their partners or ex-partners in the first 28 days of January.
Source: Ministry of Health, Social Services and Equality, Government of Spain
Interview with psychologist Patricia Ríos
This situation of permanent violence has generated a social and judicial effort that seems not yet to bear the necessary fruits. Victims of abuse are often people who feel helpless and invisible. It is for this reason that we have found it very interesting to be able to talk with Patricia Ríos , a clinical psychologist with an extensive curriculum and who has specialized in the treatment of battered people.
Bertrand Regader: Good morning, Patricia. Tell us: what is your professional background in the field of gender violence?
Patricia Ríos: In my private practice I have found several cases of gender violence, especially women, but also men and even teenagers.
I have also been able to get in touch with the other side of the equation, working on group intervention with a group of men convicted of crimes of gender violence. And I have to say that it has been an enriching experience.
B. R .: Gender, domestic, sexist, intrafamily violence ... what nuances does each of these denominations introduce and which one do you prefer to use?
In gender violence we should include every violent act exercised by one "gender" against the other, in this way, it is no longer only the man who exercises violence and the woman who suffers it, but it can also happen and actually occurs On the contrary, it is the woman who exercises violence and the man who suffers it. In the latter case, the abuse is usually of a psychological nature, although physical mistreatment exercised by the woman towards the man also exists.
Sexist violence is the aspect that refers, only, to the violence exerted by a man towards a woman, generally, when they maintain a very close relationship.
When talking about domestic violence, it is a type of violence that goes beyond the type of aggression displayed by men against women and women against men, including violence exercised between family members of a household (and not only between the members of the couple). or even between people who, without being family members, live under the same roof.
Finally, domestic violence is that which is exercised within a family among its members. Where minors are always the most affected.
As you can see all of them encompass the same common factor, violence between people, whether of the same or different, gender, race, sex and / or age. If we take into account all the variables, the current typologies of violence are scarce, since none of them speaks of violence between people of the same sex. So personally and jointly, I like to call it interpersonal violence.
B. R .: Psychological abuse is also a form of violence. What forms do you usually take?
Psychological abuse is perhaps the most common type of violence, although it is still a taboo subject in society, still keeping it in a silent, mute and invisible type of violence.
As all types of violence is also based on power, domination and coercion, ranging from contempt and verbal abuse to much more subtle forms such as control of the economy, the way we dress, the frequency of activity social, and control by the aggressor in social networks and technologies.
B. R .: It can be the prelude to violence, shall we say, physical.
Yes. I would like to emphasize that psychological abuse is certainly the prelude to physical abuse, it is the aggressor's way of making sure that his victim will not be charged against him. Therefore, psychological abuse is no less serious, or less alarming, but is or should be, at least, a warning that something is wrong.
B. R .: Based on your experience in dealing with these cases, do you consider that there is still a certain culture that justifies violence within the couple? Or do you think people are progressively becoming aware of this social problem?
More and more people become aware of this problem although, unfortunately, it is a problem that continues to slow down.The environment overlooks many signs, out of ignorance, and the people affected, not always have the courage to say it, much less if the victim is male.
The cultural grounds that you speak to me continue to exist, and I believe that there is still much left to go down in history. Older people maintain it because of shame and guilt, and young people, often because of ignorance and fear.
Nor is it strange, public bodies continue, in a way, to blame the victim, although each time this is less. In my professional experience I have found cases in which the victim is dissuaded by the workers themselves from making the complaint viable, due to comments such as:
"Something you will have done"
"That happens to you for not paying attention"
"Do not be a nenaza and put the things clear"
It is never an easy task for a victim of abuse, be it man or woman, to face their own fears and shames and take legal action. Much less when the response received is in line with the comments.
B. R .: What is the psychological and psychological state of the people who have been mistreated and go to therapy?
The mood is always low, too low. Victims of abuse have experienced extreme situations and great impact, if not traumatic. The severity of the effects depends on the type of violence suffered, its intensity, its intention, the means used and also the characteristics of the victim and the aggressor.
In general, they are people with a very damaged personality, who manifest great insecurity, poor self-concept, changes in mood, and a high level of distrust. Some people usually manifest symptoms of depression, anxiety, ideas and even unsuccessful suicide attempts.
The most common comments made by victims of abuse are "I deserved it", "He loves me but his hand went out", "I behaved badly", "He had no other choice", "If I ask for help they will laugh at me. they will not believe me. "
B. R .: What is, broadly speaking, the psychotherapeutic and legal intervention made by a psychologist in such a case?
It is quite complicated. Psychologists are obliged to maintain confidentiality with our patients, but like any other citizen, we have a legal obligation to report any type of crime. Although bringing these two obligations together in the health professions, it is always a double-edged sword.
The first thing that comes to mind is to report the case to the authorities, and that is a very wise decision when we talk about minors. However when we speak of people of legal age or even mature minors, it is always necessary to prioritize aid as a first option.
We must not forget that anyone who confesses a case of violence, is opening the door to a very difficult secret and as we have already said, silenced, in action or omission by the environment.
The easiest option is to agree with the affected person the limits of our confidentiality and make it very clear that it will be broken without prior consent in the event that any life (one's own or that of third parties) is threatened. Once this is established with the victim, there is a long process where issues such as self-esteem, social skills, self-love and knowing how to set limits are worked on, among others.
B. R .: What common points do people who exercise physical or psychological abuse have? Can we talk about a typical profile or are there very different abusers?
Excluding mental pathologies, are people with low emotional intelligence, share a really low self-esteem, and therefore, a high level of insecurity, the assumption of responsibility is external, with little tolerance for frustration and a low level of emotional management and empathy towards themselves and others.
In my experience I could see that they feel bad about themselves, some even hate each other, and the more they hate each other and the worse they feel, the more likely they are to commit some kind of violence.
B. R .: Deaths due to gender violence seem to be increasing in recent years. In fact - as we have seen the table provided by the Ministry of Health - in the little that we have of the year there have already been eight people killed. What steps should the incoming government take to minimize this phenomenon?
Giving information on how to approach the plaintiffs would be the most important, because as I have said before, it is not uncommon to blame the victim by public bodies.
Leaving that aside, great advances have been made in this area, now there are more means such as telephones to call anonymously and totally free, there are numerous support groups and judicial measures, although not as much as before, it is still forgetting the origin. The information and prevention of said problem from the first years in the schools.