Domestic violence is the most important indicator of fatal intimate partner violence. But this is not always seen in bruises. Experts say psychological control and compulsion should also be warning signals. Recognize that it can save lives.
Hitting, kicking, bruising, or red eyes. We often think of physical abuse when we think of domestic violence, while this is not always the case. This stands in the way of identifying and even preventing partner murder.
Multiple partner kills in a short time
In recent months, several stories of fatal partner violence have surfaced. In January, two women were murdered in the Rotterdam area by their ex-partners who could not stand the fact that the relationship had ended.
In September 2021, 34-year-old Clarinda was murdered by her ex-partner. In broad daylight, on the street, while the young woman was walking behind the stroller with their daughter inside. She left him shortly before and ended the relationship. The case will go to court this week.
Partner killing is more common than we think
According to Teun Haans van Sterk Huis, an organization that supports women and families when there is violence, for example, about a third of unnatural causes of death are linked to partner homicide. “But we suspect it’s more common.”
Hans says that many of the women killed are not known to have experienced domestic violence. “We see the blow, the physical violence,” he explains. “But what’s so touching, in fact I always say the remaining 90 percent is psychological violence. That’s very tangible to the victim, but less visible to the outside world.”
Hans calls it intimate terror. The partner is aloof and humiliating, and there is control, coercion and power. Another important warning signal is attempted strangulation or violence during pregnancy. invisible. “This makes it very difficult for professionals and spectators to see it in the early stages.”
According to Hans, you can sometimes notice this when two people ask the woman a question. “To look at the man first: May I have your permission to say something. That in and of itself is not necessarily intimate terror, but it can be an important signal.” They also see intense chase. “The man who tries to take all kinds of measures to control and control the woman.”
More risk factors than physical violence
Criminologist Pauline Arten also argues that risk factors should be considered more than just physical violence. Now we are very focused on that. “This makes it difficult to recognize that other forms of domestic violence are occurring,” Arten says. She and researcher Marieke Lim examined 60 murder cases of her partners.
They studied the life path of the perpetrator and the relationship with the victim. From this they distilled five different types of offenders. Violent offenders, crazy criminals, barking and biting offenders or desperate offenders. “Those who saw no other way than to kill the partner because they were afraid of losing him.” There was talk of substance abuse, or serious debt problems.
Prevent partner violence from turning into partner murder
The risk of partner killing is often estimated based on a profile indicating that someone is physically violent. But Arten’s research shows that’s not always the case. “And that there are other risk factors as well. And there’s still very little attention to those risk factors certainly in these tools.”
According to Underworld, it is important to be aware of what psychological violence entails. “And that the environment can also be more aware of this, just like the police and emergency services. So we can intervene in that sense in time to prevent us from going from partner violence to partner murder,” she says.
“We also have an obligation as a community.”
Research conducted by Hans’s Stirk Hois, along with three other organizations in the country, has shown that intimate terrorism contributes to 80 to 90 percent of fatal violence. We must therefore pay more attention to signs of intimate horror, argues Hans. “What’s important is that we all know this problem exists,” he says. Then you can process it.
But he believes we also have an obligation as a society. “This can happen to anyone, we actually see this coming back in all walks of life. Invite people into a conversation with whom you suspect something. Ask a question that has no judgment on it. And let the other person tell the story, it can make all the difference.”