Violence affects a quarter of Portuguese homes

DOMESTIC violence affects one in every four Portuguese families, according to a recent study carried out by Minho University. Nearly 2,400 families, from northern Portugal, participated in a study which produced results that startled Carla Machado, leader of the research project, who “didn’t expect the figures to be so high”. Nevertheless, the figures are in line with estimates released by the World Health Organisation, indicating that 20 per cent of women in the world suffer some form of domestic violence – this means one million women in Portugal.

Psychological violence is the most prevalent with 23.7 per cent of those who took part in the study admitting that they had committed at least one act of emotional abuse (threats, insults) in 2003, the year previous to the study.

As for physical violence (slapping, pushing, punching, etc.), 12 per cent said that they had attacked their partner physically at least once during the year. Just over 22.2 per cent regarded themselves as victims of domestic violence and 26.22 per cent considered themselves aggressors.

“In general, physical violence is more typical in marital relations than in pre-marital relationships, e.g. boyfriend and girlfriend, because, in the latter, there is a different power dynamic,” said Carla Machado. “Perhaps this is because the younger generations now have a different mentality – and, perhaps, the normalisation of the relationship through the institution of marriage brings people closer to the traditional model. Also, in a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship, there are usually no children, there is reduced social pressure and there is the all important fact that the relationship is easier to break-off when the situation becomes abusive.”

Regarding domestic violence and children, 12.3 per cent admitted physically ill-treating their children at least once in 2003, while 22.4 per cent admitted acts of emotional abuse (insulting, telling the child he/she is not liked, etc). While the study excluded sexual abuse, it revealed that 4.7 per cent of adults beat their children so as to “leave marks”, with 3.7 per cent having used a belt to inflict injury and 2.8 per cent having thrown things at their children.

Men were the main offenders in marital violence, but women were worse when it came to beating their children. Further, according to the study, domestic violence touches all social classes, although there is a marked increase when considerations of divorce enter the frame.