The World Health Organization states that the prevalence of abuse and violence against women is causing an epidemic in today’s society, especially in Greece. As seen across the news, the rate of femicides, that is, violence, abuse, harm and death towards women have risen over this year in the Greece. Feminist groups in Greece have approximated that at least one woman dies each month due to abuse or violence by their partner. This is often called Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) or Domestic Violence (DV). IPV is a leading cause of death, disability and illness for women of childbearing ages across the globe.  In 2020, the rate of domestic violence offenses was stated as 5,669 with a large majority of 4,264 being female victims of this violence.  In 2018, it was reported that there were 2,864 calls by women experiencing abuse to 41 counseling centers and 21 shelters across Greece. Specifically, 87% of the calls were related to domestic violence by a partner . A large portion of the women were of Greek nationality, married, aged between 40 – 54 years old (26%) and 25-39 years old (24%). A local news website has reported the rise in domestic violence during the 43 days of a lockdown-quarantine in March and April in Greece. There were 166 calls to S0S helplines in March specifically and a rise to 648 in April reporting domestic violence. Many of the women were spouses between ages 25-39 (18%) and 40-54(27%).  There were several calls requesting housing facilities as well. The continuous rise of violence against women is alarming and damaging to health and society. A step for us to take as women, is to better understand the signs of domestic violence emerging and the cycle of abuse to increase our awareness of what is exactly happening, prevent and protect ourselves from further abuse.

Domestic Violence is the establishment of power and control through a pattern of forceful behaviors that include physical, sexual, verbal, and psychological abuse perpetrated by one intimate partner against another. It is really important to acknowledge that psychological abuse involves the following: intimidation, continuous demeaning or insulting, controlling behavior such as monitoring movements/location, isolation or restriction from seeing loved ones, restricting access to – financial resources/money, medical care, employment, education and much more.  All these forms of abuse exist on a spectrum from a single episode of violence to ongoing abusive experiences leading to various psychological, physical and interpersonal consequences for women of abuse to cope with.

Domestic or Intimate Partner Violence follows a theory called the ‘cycle of violence’ involving three stages of abuse. The cycle is a repetitive, series of harm that fluctuates in time and severity.

  • The initial stage known as ‘tension building’ which is a buildup of minor verbal, emotional and physical abuse committed by the abuser/partner leading to a build-up of tension. Here, it is really common for a woman to calm/pacify the partner due to avoid more attacks, this is for survival purposes and is the only viable way to cope in the moment. Towards the start, she may have succeeded in calming the partner, which can make her believe she has control over the situation. However, the situation will eventually explode again, leading to another violent episode to follow.
  • This is the second stage called ‘acute battering’ stage, where the abuser/partner has an uncontrollable violent outburst, with severe verbal and physical violence, psychologically, emotionally and physically injuring the woman.
  • The last stage is called ‘the honeymoon’ which is where the abuser/partner becomes apologetic, regretful, loving and guarantees that the violence or abuse will not continue, they will stop and everything will be ok. This strengthens the woman’s expectations that he will change and impacts her to stay in the relationship. Due to this reinforcement, she believes that the violence were tantrums, or due to something she had done. So, she may unconsciously start to trust that the adoring and apologetic man in stage three is who the abuser truly is.

Yet, this stage will eventually die out as tension rises again and the woman is exposed to another cycle of abuse. As the cycle is repeated, the level of cruelty escalates.

This repeated cycle decreases the women’s reaction to the abuse causing a psychological paralysis called ‘learned helplessness’’. Despite the fact that the woman initially believed that they could control the abuse in stage 1, she eventually may realize the ineffectiveness of accommodating the violence or of avoiding behaviors that worsens the situation. The woman may start to perceive herself as helpless, becomes submissive, goes into a shell and believes she will never escape this abuse. Feelings of being demoralized and disgraced by the fact that she can’t control or anticipate the viciousness of the abuser/partner, she eventually sinks into a state of fear and mental paralysis becoming stuck or trapped.

Please know that you can do something, you are not stuck! Even if it is difficult, please try to reach out for help to a stranger, to a shelter, to a friend, there are people who will be there to support you. Please do not stay silent, check on your friends and family who you may suspect are suffering quietly in paralysis. Be empathetic and compassionate, offer them any support you can, from shelter, food, legal or psychological counsel to a kind ear to talk to.

Please call 15900 for the SOS Helpline for Abused Women. The SOS is in use 24/7. Provides services mainly in Greek language but is also able to provide services in English.