Forms of violence

Violence against women

Violence against women includes any act of gender-based violence; similarly to hate crimes, it is defined as violence directed at a particular group that differs by gender. It is present in all cultures and is considered to be a consequence of the traditional view on women as male property.

There are many definitions and forms of violence against women, but it is mostly divided in the following manner:

Psychological violence

Psychological violence, or the use of psychological pressure that causes a sense of fear, danger, distress or offense against dignity, verbal violence, verbal assaults, insults, swearing, name calling, or otherwise rough verbal harassment, stalking or harassment via all means of communication or through electronic and printed media or in any other manner or in communication with third parties, illegal isolation or endangering the freedom of movement (e.g. humiliation, public ridicule, name calling, swearing, criticizing other people’s ideas and actions, interrupting people while they talk, shouting, twisting everything someone says, downplaying and denial of violence, blaming the victim for the violent behavior, ignoring, intimidation, threats, physical display of superiority, prohibitions, stalking, tracking, controlling the telephone, mail and personal belongings, the destruction of personal belongings, threat of suicide). It is recognized as a form of domestic violence in the Law on Protection from Domestic Violence NN 137/09, 14/10, 60/10.

Physical violence

Physical violence and use of physical force, regardless of bodily injury (e.g. pushing, hitting, slapping, choking, strangulation, physical restraint, pressing, pinching, preventing physical movement, scratching, shaking, burning with cigarette, tearing clothes from the person, throwing objects, throwing or destroying things in the house) has been recognized as a form of domestic violence in the Law on Protection from Domestic Violence NN 137/09, 14/10, 60/10.

Economic violence

Economic violence, which includes damage or destruction of personal and joint assets, banning or disabling the use of personal and joint property or attempting to do so, deprivation of rights or prohibition of disposing with personal income or property acquired through personal work or inheritance, disabling the employment or work, forced economic dependency, denial of funds for the maintenance of joint household and care for children or other dependents of a joint household (e.g. withholding money, ban on getting employed, managing personal property without the knowledge or approval, deciding what and when to be purchased, requesting each small expense be justified, independent decision-making). It is recognized as a form of domestic violence in the Law on Protection from Domestic Violence NN 137/09, 14/10, 60/10.

Sexual violence

Sexual violence is defined by the World Health Organization as any sexual act, attempt to realise the sexual act, unwanted sexual comments or suggestions that are directed against a person and her sexuality, which can be committed by another person regardless of their relationship to the victim or their situation. It is characterized by the use of force, threats or blackmail to endanger the welfare and/or the life of the victim or persons close to her.” It is recognized as a form of domestic violence in the Law on Protection from Domestic Violence NN 137/09, 14/10, 60/10.

Sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is one of the most common forms of sexual violence, which is widely tolerated and for which most legal systems do not have mechanisms for sanctions. The new Croatian Criminal Code, which entered into force on January 1, 2013, sexual harassment is recognized as a criminal offense. It includes unwanted sexual behavior that does not necessarily involve physical contact, by which a person is put into an uncomfortable and humiliating position, and causes a feeling of shame.
Forms of sexual harassment: unwanted sexual comments and verbal suggestions, unwanted calls, physical contact, body language (staring, standing too close, giving a variety of signs), emotional abuse, inadequate attention, and sexual bribery.

Sexual abuse
Sexual assault / forced sexual acts is a very broad category that includes more serious forms of sexual violence than sexual harassment but still do not fall into the category of rape under existing laws. It includes unwanted sexual behavior elicited by the use of and/or threats and involves physical contact with the perpetrator.

Forms of sexual abuse: unwanted / forced bodily contact, touching intimate parts of the body, sexual activity manipulated through lies, threats, pressure, forcing someone to masturbate, to watch masturbation, to perform masturbation on the perpetrator or to masturbate while the perpetrator is watching.


Rape is the most serious form of sexual violence that leaves long-term psychological consequences. Croatian Criminal Code belongs to the group of more advanced laws since it provides a very broad definition of rape, according to which rape includes vaginal, anal and/or oral penetration by a penis or objects. Rape involves extremely difficult and traumatic experiences with serious consequences for the victims who usually hide their experiences and attempt to cope with problems on their own (Mamula, 2005).

With regard to the perpetrator of the rape, the following types are recognized: rape as a part of domestic violence (spousal rape), rape in relationships / date rape, rape by a stranger, gang rape, and rape in armed conflicts and war.


Incest is engagement in sexual activity or marriage with a close family member. Incest leaves a very profound effect on the victim, it has the highest proportion of dark figures, and it is believed that in more than 90% of cases it remains unreported.

Other forms of sexual violence

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is the term used for partial or total removal of external parts of the female genitalia or other injury to female genital organs performed for the cultural or other non-health related reasons. It is estimated that today there are between 130 and 140 million women and girls in the world who are victims of genital mutilation.

Honor killing is a term that refers to the practice in which men kill their female relatives, family members, in the name of family honor for having sexual relations outside of marriage, including rape or suspected marital infidelity. Honor killings are justified by tradition, according to which a woman is a male property, and her purity and virtue are the only important virtues of “commodity”. Women are never given the opportunity to provide explanation or clear any misunderstandings, because tradition dictates that there is only one way to restore male honor – by killing the woman. UN estimates that each year 5000 women are killed for honor.

Forced virginity checks are related to the coercion into gynecological examination to determine the condition of the hymen. The goal of such examination is to determine whether the hymen is torn as a result of sexual relations and time when it occurred. Such forced checks are performed on women accused of alleged prostitution or “immoral” behavior, and such examination determines if she is still a virgin as well as the time of the last sexual intercourse. Broken hymen is considered a proof of prostitution. This practice is still present in India, Egypt, Turkey and South Africa.

Special category of sexual violence is sexual homicide as a deliberate act or a side effect. While some sexual homicides are planned, in some situations where sexual violence was the main aim of the perpetrator, significant changes can occur: the attacker might get scared of events, woman might exhibit strong resistance or she might be the only witness who can “throw him into prison”. Sexual homicides are one of the most brutal types of homicide that attract intense attention from the media and public institutions. It is assessed that they are relatively rare.

Forced marriages affect more than 82 million girls between the ages of 10 and 17 who will be married before their 18th birthday. Most often these girls enter into marriages with much older men. The poverty of the family and subordination of women in the society are the major causes of arranged marriages of children. The custom of arranging child marriages is widespread throughout the world and represents a form of sexual violence, because children who are forced into such marriages, especially girls, can not give consent, due to their age and status in the family and society, thus violating their basic rights to personal freedom and growth. The vast majority of girls and young women do not know anything or know very little about sexual relations before the arranged marriage occurs, which increases their fear. Sexual relations they are exposed to are inherently violent and cause physical, psychological and emotional consequences.

Forced and selective abortion – abortion of female fetuses is considered a measure of population policy aimed at reducing population growth or because of the traditional values that value boys more than girls. Research from 2005 indicates that the world population is missing 90 million women. This practice is most common in China, India, Pakistan, the Caucasus, Korea and Taiwan.

Forced sterilization – sterilization without the person’s consent, used as a practice of the population policy to reduce population growth. It is also used for eugenic purposes through sterilizing people who have different genetic diseases. Today it is used in China as a part of population policy and in many countries against various ethnic groups in order to reduce their share in the population as a means of genocide, for example Roma population in the Czech Republic (between 1973 to 2001) and Indian populations in Peru (over 400 000 people were sterilized in 1990s).

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