Psychological consequences of maltreatment and gender-based violence

Gender-based violence is a violation of rights and a form of discrimination against women.

Violence against women takes many forms and its consequences are high, the most affected being the physical and mental health of the victims. It severely affects both the management of everyday life and relationships with others.

Gender-based violence has a serious impact on all aspects of a woman’s health – physical, sexual and reproductive, mental and behavioural health. The health consequences of gender-based violence can be both immediate and acute, and long-lasting and chronic. Negative health consequences can persist long time after the violence has stopped. The more severe the level of violence, the greater the impact on women’s health. In addition, exposure to more than one type of violence (e.g. physical and sexual) and/or multiple incidents of violence over time tend to lead to more serious health consequences.

Exposure to gender-based violence increases the risk of developing certain pathologies and conditions. We can classify the health consequences of gender-based violence for victims into four categories:

● Acute or immediate physical trauma;
● Impact on physical health and development of vulnerable behaviours;
● Sexual, reproductive and perinatal health consequences;
● Chronic diseases;

A traumatic event is one that has the capacity to cause mental or physical trauma. A severe traumatic event often changes the way survivors understand the world around them. They may lose their sense of safety and feel vulnerable and helpless.

If the event involves violence, trust in other people may be lost and the survivor’s inter-relationship world may be turned upside down. Loss of sense of safety, control and trust can lead to depression, anxiety etc.

Gender-based violence is a distinct form of trauma because the trauma experienced is highly intrusive and gives rise to feelings of shame, self-blame and guilt. When combined with the fear of being harmed, it is traumatic in almost all cases.

The long-term effects of violence against women on mental health can include:

● Depression – results from the victim’s deep sense of self-blame, which a causes her to be intensely critical and unable to see into the future. happiness or pleasure. The vicious circle of depression is characterised by energy and low motivation, tiredness which leads to reduced activities and neglect which maintains feelings of guilt and hopelessness.

● Anxiety – The psychological stress to which victims of abuse are subjected is variable, however some symptoms can be explained by the context that causes fear and anxiety and by the psychological distress resulting from exposure to traumatic stressors: danger of death, severe injury or sexual violence.

● Suicide – the risk of suicide or self-harm is extremely high in victims of domestic violence and is associated with exaggerated feelings of guilt, of hopelessness and low social support.


Psychological services

Within our EVA IRFAM – There is Hidden Violence Affecting Migrant Women project, the migrants we work with benefit, free of charge, from psychological support either through counseling sessions or support groups.


Psychological counseling is offered, upon request, to those people who want psychological support / intervention. The main purpose of psychological counseling sessions is to prevent or alleviate the psycho-emotional traumatic consequences of abuse.


The support groups have the role of providing participants with a safe space in which to discuss their feelings and needs. Special emphasis will be placed on increasing the capacity of migrant / refugee women and girls and LGBTIQ people to know their rights in GBV situations and to access their rights in relation to public authorities / community / family space. 

In both types of activities / services, emphasis will be placed on supporting and encouraging participants to reflect on their personal situations and their position within social structures (family, community, country).


The main beneficiaries of counseling activities and support groups are migrant / refugee women and LGBTQI people, as well as young migrants.