Gender violence and partner violence continue to be a social problem to be taken into account today. Multiple people are attacked in different ways or even killed for reasons such as gender stereotypes or the fact that they belong to a particular sex.

But in many cases people who suffer this type of abuse do not dare to report it because they fear reprisals, they believe that it is normal behaviour or even because of the possible difficulty of establishing the boundaries when classifying a situation as gender violence or not.

Being able to detect gender-based violence is a prerequisite to being able to deal with it. This is why there are multiple protocols and procedures dedicated to this. In this article we intend to indicate a series of questions that can be used to help detect cases of gender-based violence .

Gender-based violence

Gender-based violence is any act in which a person is beaten, assaulted, coerced or generally harmed through violence due to their belonging to a specific sex or gender .

Specifically, this type of violence is defined as specifically directed from men to women because the acts of aggression are carried out on the basis of gender stereotypes that place the female sex as the weak and inferior sex and subject to the male sex . The aim is to maintain a relationship of domination, superiority and power with the victim, based on these stereotypes. It generally occurs within the couple, although it is not the only one in which it can be observed.

Although there are also men who are abused by women and in their concept this would be included as gender-based violence, they are not usually considered as such due to their lesser frequency and the fact that the reason for this is not usually due to the fact that they belong to the male gender (although it is possible and occurs in some cases, which is why the consideration and specificity that the term gender-based violence generally has nowadays is criticised).

Nor is same-sex violence considered as such (although it may also be gender roles that generate aggression).

The different types of abuse

Gender-based violence can include many different types of violence, such as psychological, physical, sexual or property violence . It often involves isolating the victim and making her dependent on the aggressor. Violence is usually exercised in three moments or phases: an initial escalation of tension, the aggression itself and finally a possible phase of repentance or “honeymoon”.

Because of the different forms of aggression that can exist and the different beliefs that some people have about it (for example, some victims believe they deserve such treatment), it is sometimes complicated to identify which situations are or are not mistreatment even for the person being assaulted. This is why it is necessary to develop protocols that allow these situations to be identified.

Questions for detecting GBV

Here are some questions that you can ask or be asked about whether you are experiencing GBV.

As with other types of violence, if these questions are asked in an interview it is possible to see signs of abuse or inconsistencies between the verbal or written response and non-verbal behaviour.

1. What role does a woman have in a relationship? And a man?

This question may seem innocent, but it allows to know the opinion of the person who is asked (either the assaulted or the aggressor) regarding the role of each sex .

2. Does he ever humiliate or criticize you in public or in private?

While abusers generally tend not to show any aggression in public and to limit the aggression to the private sphere, it is sometimes possible to detect a lowering of the opinion or performance of the woman in question when they are in society.

3. Have you ever been pressured to have sex or kept it up because of fear of your partner?

Sexual violence, in the form of rape or through coercion , is also common.

4. Has he ever pushed or hit you?

Physical violence is often the easiest to observe both externally and by the assaulted person, although sometimes it can be complex for the victim to stipulate where an assault begins (for example, they may not consider a push to be such).

5. Do you feel that you are trying to get away from your surroundings?

Often the abuser will try to remove the victim from his surroundings, making him as dependent as possible.

6. Does it bother you that you have male friends or that you have contact with family and friends?

For the same reason as above, the existence of contact with other men or close relationships can be seen as a threat to their relationship.

7. Have you ever taken your cell phone and checked your messages without permission?

Jealousy and the possibility of being abandoned often causes the abuser to try to control interactions with other people.

8. Does he send you messages continuously to find out where you are and who you are with?

Another very frequent element observed in abuse is the exhaustive control of what the victim does, and especially with whom. Sometimes they even demand photos and evidence.

9. Does he insult you or give you derogatory nicknames?

Making the victim feel inferior is a common mechanism in GBV, which can serve to keep the victim under control and subdued.

10. Has your partner ever threatened you or a loved one or made you feel like you were in danger if you didn’t do or stop doing something?

Vicarious violence, especially with children, is used to coerce and sometimes prevents the victim from making decisions such as reporting or leaving her partner.

11. Do you feel safe in your home?

People who experience GBV often feel uneasy in their home, fearing they will do something that will trigger an aggression .

12. Do you often compare yourself to other people and put yourself below them?

Again, a frequent method of undermining the victim’s self-esteem is to point out the areas in which the victim is inferior to other people in the eyes of the offender.

13. Have you ever tried to report or withdraw a report from your partner?

Today there is a large number of reports of gender-based violence that are withdrawn because of the promise of the abuser to change or the fear of possible repercussions for the victim or her environment.

14. Is he stopping you or trying to convince you not to work?

The need to have power over the woman often leads to her not working, being economically dependent on the subject.

15. He decides for you?

Again, this question is about whether there is a restriction of freedom and whether there is independence from the other partner.

16. Have you ever had to hide bruises?

People who experience GBV often try to hide the marks they get from physical attacks, and finger marks, bites and punches on the face and other areas of the body are common.

17. Has he ever told you that you are worthless, that you deserve to be dead, or that he is the only one who could love you and you should be grateful to him?

This type of statement can become relatively frequent and the victims may come to believe them, causing low self-esteem and the feeling that the aggressor is superior .

18. When you go out, does he force you to get dressed or not?

Some abusers use their partners as a trophy to be shown in public, forcing them to dress up and look spectacular. In other cases, they force them to keep a low profile and look as unpleasant as possible so that they cannot attract other people.

19. Does it prevent you from doing something you want to do?

The restriction of freedoms either directly through force or prohibition or through the use of devaluation of certain actions is very frequent in situations of gender violence.

20. Do you think you deserve a slap from your partner?

Although most people would answer no, the manipulation to which they are subjected makes some victims feel worthy of abuse.

21. What do you think would happen to your children if you left your husband?

Sometimes it is the presence of children and the possible repercussions for them that stops the victims of gender-based violence from reporting and/or ceasing the relationship with the aggressor.

22. Has he ever threatened or hit your children to make you do something, or blamed you for having to hit them?

Vicarious violence is used as a mechanism to coerce the victim and force him/her to remain submissive.

23. Do you think abuse only happens in broken homes?

There is a myth that mistreatment only occurs in dysfunctional families , in which there is drug consumption or in families with few resources and little education. In fact, it is possible to observe gender-based violence in very diverse situations, regardless of the socio-economic level or type of family.

24. Do you believe that violence and abuse only occur when there are beatings?

Many women and men believe that the use of insults or handicaps cannot be considered gender violence , considering that only physical aggressions are mistreatment.

25. Are you afraid or have you ever been afraid of him?

A direct question, but one that allows a simple answer and allows the victim to reflect on how she feels about her partner. In spite of this, it must be taken into account that in some cases they may feel that the aggressor needs them or even express gratitude for the mistreatment.

Bibliographic references:

  • Jara, P. and Romero, A. (2009). Gender-based violence type and stage assessment scale. Jornades de Foment de la Investigació. Jaume I University.
  • Pérez, J.M. and Montalvo, A. (2010). Gender violence: analysis and approach to its causes and consequences. Gender violence: prevention, detection and care. Editorial Group. p. 322.
  • Tourné, M.; Ruiz, M.; Escribano, M.C.; Gea, A. and Salmerón, E. (2007). Protocol for the detection and care of gender violence in primary care. Servicio Murciano de Salud.