“Domestic violence is more than being beaten up, it’s more than not allowing you to see your friends; not allowing you your own money; it’s controlling your life in every possible way; no one can see it.”
Teaching domestic violence (DV) to medical students at the Münster medical school at the University of Münster in Germany provides me with a valuable opportunity to educate and enhance awareness about a relevant topic that continues to be insufficiently addressed, domestic violence. I often start my classes by presenting this quote and invite students to think about the ways in which they may have encountered the terms domestic violence and abuse so far, how they define domestic violence and abuse and what forms of violence they are aware of. Physical violence and sexual violence are mentioned the most, followed by psychological violence.
Subsequently, I present this figure on the left to highlight the most common forms of domestic violence – paired with the following question: “Which of these forms of violence are you familiar with and which terms have you never heard of or are unfamiliar with its meaning?”
In all my courses, economic violence is always listed as an unknown form of violence and the majority finds it difficult to define. The fact that economic violence is quite common surprises most students!
Therefore, I have decided to address the issue of economic violence as a form of domestic violence in this kick-off blog post of the VIPROM blog series. VIPROM (www.viprom-cerv.eu) aims at developing curricula on domestic violence for the medical sector.
AWARENESS OF ECONOMIC VIOLENCE
Google Trends highlights that the awareness of economic violence is lacking worldwide: people only search for something they know, are interested in, or care about. The figure on worldwide Google searches using the term “sexual violence” and “economic violence” from 23.8.2022 to 23.8.2023 clearly indicates that searches on economic violence were done way less than searches on sexual violence. Google Trends describe the relative frequency of a search term over time.
“The numbers created by Google Trends represent how many searches have been made for a term relative to the total number of searches conducted on Google worldwide and timeframe. All numbers are normalised using a 1-100 scale. A value of 100 is the peak popularity for the term within the timeframe, a value of 50 means that the term is half as popular and a score of 0 indicates that there was not enough data for the term” (1).
WHAT IS ECONOMIC VIOLENCE?
“Any act or behaviour which causes economic harm to an individual”
European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE)
Economic violence can take the form of
+ Restricting access to financial resources, education or the labour market
+ Not paying alimony
+ Controlling the victim’s employment and housing situation
+ Illegal taking, misusing, or concealment of money, funds, property, or assets
+ Preventing the victim from working so they become financially vulnerable or reliant on the perpetrator
+ Manipulating and coercing the victim to sign financial contracts with third parties
WHO ARE THE VICTIMS?
Victims of economic violence come from all social, cultural, economic, and religious backgrounds with different age, gender and sexual orientation, including people with disabilities. It is important to understand, that there is NO “typical victim”. It can occur for examples between couples, same sex couples, parent and child and siblings. Males can also be victims of economic violence. Economic violence rarely happens alone; often multiple forms of violence, such as physical, sexual, psychological, or threats of violence, are present simultaneously.
ECONOMIC VIOLENCE – IMPACT ON MENTAL HEALTH
Economic violence as any other form of domestic violence can result in mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, stress, post-traumatic stress disorder, poor quality of life and suicide! Victims may also become dependent on alcohol and drugs.
WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT TO BE AWARE OF ECONOMIC VIOLENCE?
- Victims are often not aware that they are experiencing economic violence and therefore it is underreported.
- Professionals of the medical sector are often the only ones seeing victims and therefore they need to know about it and ask about economic violence.
- Without awareness, prevention measures can be neither put in place nor implemented.
In a nutshell:
Economic violence is among the most common forms of violence, but rather unknown! VIPROM is changing this by including this topic in the curricula of the medical sector and in the European training platform on domestic violence.
MORE INFORMATION ON FORMS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Prof. Dr. Dr. Bettina Pfleiderer PhD MD works as associate professor and head of the research group Cognition & Gender at the Clinic of Radiology of the medical faculty of the University Muenster in Germany. She is the coordinator of VIPROM and a known expert in the field of domestic violence and medical education since many years and is lecturing on domestic violence globally. She and her research team developed the EUROPEAN training platform on DV for the healthcare sector, police, and social sector (www.training.vimprodo.eu).
Madeleine Stöhr, M.A., works as research assistant at the Clinic of Radiology in the EU project VIPROM – Victim Protection in Medicine. She holds a Master’s degree in Human Rights from Central European University. Beyond her academic achievements, she is a passionate graphic designer who thrives on transforming ideas into captivating visuals. She is responsible for further updating the trainings materials for the medical sector.