Children with experience of domestic violence

Individual psychotherapeutic debriefing for children and young people in the age group 3–20 who have experienced family-related violence.

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One in ten children in Sweden have personal experience of physical or psychological violence perpetrated by one parent against another. The experience of violence can mean more than simply witnessing it. It may be hearing, or being aware that violence is going on in the home due to the atmosphere or registering its consequences in the form of injuries and emotional outbursts.

Talking to children

Barnafrid, a national centre for knowledge concerning violence against children, offers professional skills development for talking to children who have experienced family-related violence.

The purpose of these conversations with children are to:

  • talk about their experiences of violence, threats of violence and arguments in the home;
  • allow them to express their feelings and thoughts about violence;
  • help them understand that it is never the child’s fault when adults quarrel or resort to violence; and
  • help them understand their own reactions when a parent uses violence and abusive control against other family members.

Apply for a professional to talk to your child

Would you like a professional to talk to your child, or to learn more about the help available to you? Please contact personal and family counselling services on 0910 - 73 50 00 and ask to speak to the duty social worker, or apply for support digitally via the link below.

Contact Bris

Anyone under 18 years of age can call Bris to speak to a counsellor, or to someone of their own age.

Telephone: 116 111

Website: (link to external website in Swedish.) External link.

I Want to Know

Visit the website I Want to Know if you want to know more about your rights.

Webiste: (link to external website in Swedish) External link.

What is violence?

Any act that frightens, injures, causes pain to or degrades another person in order to influence or control them is violence.

Violence occurs in all social groups and at all ages. One cannot say that it only applies to a specific type of person or relationship. In Sweden, domestic violence is a crime.

People use violence in intimate relationships in order to assert power and control over their partner. It is common for the perpetrator of violence to have attempted to exert other forms of control over their partner before they resort to hitting them. Once violence does start it will almost always escalate if the relationship continues.

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Definition of domestic violence

Domestic violence is characterised by the victim having a close relationship, and often strong emotional bonds, with the perpetrator. This complicates matters and makes it harder to resist and leave the relationship. This kind of violence generally occurs in the victim’s home. The longer the relationship continues, the more likely the violence is to increase in intensity and severity.

The term domestic violence encompasses all types of violence between people in close relationships: in heterosexual and homosexual relationships, relationships between siblings and within other familial relationships.

Psychological violence

Psychological violence can take many forms but it always has a tremendous impact on the wellbeing of the victim. If you are regularly criticised, questioned, degraded and treated as if you are stupid by your partner, you may well become insecure about yourself and what you think and say. You may even begin to think that what they say is true and that you are to blame for any conflicts or arguments that arise in your relationship. You may do what your partner tells you simply to avoid an argument, threats and/or violence.

If your partner threatens to take their own life if you leave the relationship, that too is psychological violence. They may also threaten to harm you or someone close to you, or harm your pet in some way.

Another form of psychological violence is to prevent you from comforting your children or seeking treatment for yourself or the children.
Psychological violence may involve your partner doing one or more of the following:

  • Saying and doing things to degrade you.
  • Accusing you of something you did not do.
  • Making you believe that you are the one who usually thinks or does the wrong things in the relationship.
  • Behaving unpredictable. What was right yesterday is wrong today; in fact, you can do no right.
  • Checking and offering unsolicited opinions about your social media posts and text messages.
  • Controlling you to the extent that it becomes difficult for you to maintain contact with friends and family.
  • Threatening to harm you or someone you love, whether a person or animal.
  • Scaring you with threatening gestures or comments.
  • Making everyday life difficult for you, for example, by hiding things you need.
  • Breaking furniture or other objects you like.
  • Having fun at your expense, ridiculing and mocking you.
  • Controlling household finances.

Physical violence

Physical violence can range from pulling hair, slapping, pushing, punching, kicking, strangulation or attempted suffocation to assault with a weapon. The perpetrator of physical violence often deliberately targets areas of the body where bruises and other injuries will not attract the attention of outsiders. The violence may even cause injuries that cannot be hidden, such as fractures, eye damage or scratches. bruises and cuts on exposed areas of the body. Physical violence may be a recurring event or remain an ever-present threat.

They are many ways to inflict physical violence. For example, your partner may do one or more of the following:

  • Pinch, shake or restrain you.
  • Pull your hair.
  • Drag or pull you.
  • Throw things at you.
  • Place a stranglehold on you.
  • Punch or kick you.
  • Bang your head against something.
  • Prevent you from sleeping.

Sexual violence

Sexual violence refers to any sexual act committed against your will, ranging from pestering you into having sex all the way to rape. You may be forced to perform degrading sexual acts against your will. Physical violence against your breasts and genitals may also be sexual violence.
Sexual violence can be both physical and psychological; for example, your partner may do one or more of the following:

  • Have sex with you against your will.
  • Make unsolicited sexual remarks to you.
  • Touch you sexually against your will.
  • Pester you into having sex or force you to perform various types of sexual act.
  • Force you to watch pornography against your will.
  • Force you to have sex with multiple partners.
  • Put you in a situation where you feel unable to say no to sex. The victim may feel that the price of refusing sex will be too high.

Sweden has a consent law stating that sex must be voluntary; otherwise, it is a criminal offence. This means that, unless you actively consent to having sex, the offence is the same as if you had said no and your wishes were not respected.

Material violence

Material violence may involve destroying the family’s joint possessions, the partner’s personal property or the children’s toys. The perpetrator of violence may well select things of particular sentimental value to the partner or child in order to threaten, degrade and hurt them. They may also target things that their partner needs in their everyday life.

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Economic violence

Economic violence means that the perpetrator controls the family’s finances and the partner’s money in such a way that the partner must ask for money for every purchase. It may also refer to the opposite relationship, where the partner is forced to pay for all household expenses while the perpetrator uses their money for their own pleasure and investments.

Violence against people with disabilities

People who are dependent on others for everyday nursing and care may also be subjected to neglect, such as the withholding of medication or being given a diet without sufficient nutrients.
This category of violence also includes one partner forcing the other to do things against their will or threatening them, keeping them confined at home or being in their home without permission.

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