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What Lies Beneath: Victims experiences with psychological violence


Domestic violence affects the physical, mental, and social health of the victims. The violence can be physical, psychological, sexual, material, and economic. These different forms of violence often exist simultaneous or in extension of each other. Studies of domestic violence have mainly focused on physical partner violence, – often men’s violence against women – and in recent years sexual violence has also invoked attention. Although psychological violence is not a new phenomenon, it is sparsely explored scientifically.


On April 1st, 2019, a new criminal law on psychological violence was introduced in Denmark. Thus, psychological violence can be equated with physical violence, with which the perpetrator can be punished with fines and imprisonment for up to three years. The legislation to criminalizes psychological violence raises the need for knowledge about what characterize psychological violence and how psychological violence is experienced by people who are or have been exposed to this form of violence.


The main focus of this PhD-project is psychological violence, but attention is also drawn to its connection to other forms of violence.



The aim of the PhD-project is to explore how psychological violence is experienced by people who are or have been exposed to this form of violence. Furthermore, the project aims to gain insight into relevant organizations work with victims of psychological violence as well as their perspective on counseling in criminal cases of psychological violence. This is explored through the following research questions:


  1. How is psychological violence experienced, and in what ways does the violence affect the everyday life of the victims? And is there a difference in the way psychological violence is articulated across genders, in Denmark.
  2. How is the course of violence experienced from the first time the victims seek to break with the violence (for example by reaching out to family, friends or through police reporting, stays at shelters and/or outpatient services) to where they are today?
  3. How does employees, from organizations working with victims of violence, support these people? And what is the significance of the new criminal law in this area?



Data will be generated through ethnographic fieldwork, including observations and interviews, at a women’s crisis center, a men’s center and in organizations working with victims of violence. The fieldwork will consist of observations of everyday life in a shelter and (participant) observation in counseling situations, including group session, individual sessions and at a help hotline. Interviews will be conducted with both victims of violence and staff in the shelters and the organizations, respectively.


Project period

The PhD-project is expected to be completed in early 2025. Research results will be published in a PhD dissertation, including three scientific articles, at the end of the project period.


Collaboration and funding

The PhD-project is funded by Offerfonden and Mary Fonden.

Last Updated 11.05.2021