‘Psychological violence underpins violence within the couple’

"Psychological violence underpins violence within the couple, and must be regarded as the psychological equivalent of murder. Unless she has been psychologically prepared to submit, no woman would accept physical violence. It is an irreversible result of such psychological preparation and pressure, such verbal violence, creating a situation of domination, that a human being is first morally destroyed, then subjected to physical violence," according to lawyer Yael Mellul, speaking at a hearing on psychological violence held by the PACE Equal Opportunities Committee.

Psychiatrist Marie-France Hirigoyen takes the view that criminalising psychological violence is one way of trying to forestall such violence; however, this solution will not work unless all concerned are trained, particularly judges and the police. "Many women are unaware that they are victims of violence! How is a dispute between the couple to be distinguished from violence? The underlying problem is social conditioning. Psychological violence works through insidious micro-violence, humiliation and denigration, then moves on to insults, threats, financial pressure, harassment and social isolation. Ascendancy is imposed at three levels: cognitive, behavioural and emotional, and can give rise to a kind of mutual addiction," she explained.

In conclusion, Elvira Kovács (Serbia, EPP/CD), who is preparing a report on this subject, said that psychological violence should be made a criminal offence, albeit one difficult to prove.