Gewaltschutzgesetz (Protection Against Violence Act)

The Protection Against Violence Act allows the victims of domestic violence to stay in their familiar environment while the violent party has to leave the joint residence.

The Protection Against Violence Act involves the following sanctions:

  • Expulsion/prohibition to return: The police can evict an offender after the victim has reported domestic violence. He or she is not allowed to return to the joint residence for 14 days. A prohibition order can also be obtained for schools and childcare institutions if children of up to 14 years of age are affected by domestic violence. Furthermore the Youth Welfare Office has to be notified by the police, so they can take the necessary measures to protect the child. If somebody repeatedly violates the interim injunction they can be taken into custody.
  • Interim injunction: Upon request the local district court can issue an interim injunction that obliges the perpetrator to leave the residence for a longer period of time. That interim injunction can be obtained in conjunction with a preceding expulsion or independently from a previous police intervention.

The sanctions of the Act apply to all offenders that live in the same house or apartment as the victim: spouses, partners, relatives or flatmates, parents. If children are affected then parents or their respective partners. Ownership or main tenancy are of no consequence to the process. Therefore even the owner of the residence can be expelled, to ensure a safe space for the victims.

Forms of violence

Physical violence
For example, shoving, pushing, holding somebody, slapping, kicking, hitting someone with objects (such as belts etc.), strangling, pushing someone down the stairs, pulling someone’s hair, withholding food or liquids, depriving someone of sleep.

Sexual violence
For example, sexual coercion, forcing someone to watch pornographic portrayals, forcing someone into prostitution, rape within marriage or dating relationships.

Psychological or emotional violence
For example, issuing threats, insulting, humiliating, shaming, abusing and ridiculing someone, guilt-tripping, intimidating, calling someone crazy, withdrawing/destroying or disposing of important personal belongings, threatening to abduct the child/children, threatening to commit suicide, controlling somebody’s daily routine.

Economic or financial violence
For example, not granting access to money by e.g. not allowing a bank account or an income, withholding education or job trainings, creating and maintaining financial dependencies, making the partner work in one’s business without remuneration.

Social violence
For example, attempts to isolate the partner by controlling, prohibiting or restricting contact to friends and family, controlling/taking away the mobile phone or locking someone up at home.

Stalking
For example, repeated attempts to get in contact with someone against their wishes (personally or via phone, text message, Whatsapp, social media, third parties etc.), pursuing, watching and spying on someone, verbally abusing someone.

Phases / dynamics of violence

Violence in vulnerable relationships does not necessarily take place openly or in all cases. What can observed instead is a pattern of different phases of violence. If this pattern cannot be disrupted, this can lead to even more violence.

1. Phase of tension-building
Sometimes little acts of violence occur in the relationship. In order not to worsen the situation, victims try and appease their partner. They adapt, play down the severity of violence and suppress their fears. But sooner or later more violence will happen, because the victim cannot control the offender’s actions with their appeasing or avoiding behavior.

2. Outbreak
The violent partner loses control and abuse occurs that can bring about physical injuries. In this short and dangerous phase victims react differently: they flee or withdraw themselves, they struggle or endure the abuse. Victims of severe domestic violence often develop trauma, that can lead to sleep disorders, chronic pain, anxiety and/or loss of confidence in themselves and others.

3. Remorse and care – „Honeymoon-Phase“
After the abuse has taken place, the violent party often feels remorse. There are offenders who start looking for help. Others promise to change. Hoping that their partner will change this time, a lot of partners abort their plans of separation or withdraw their statements that they made in the course of criminal proceedings. Some of them cancel their appointments with supporting institutions or return home from women’s shelters. They suppress recollections of the abuse, defend the perpetrator against others and trivialize the violence suffered. Many violent offenders appear very persuasive in their promises to change. Therefore, sometimes even friends and family interfere and try to influence her or him into giving the offender one more chance.

4. Shifting the blame
Some perpetrators do not see the cause of the escalation in themselves but rather in other circumstances (alcohol, problems in the working space etc.) or in their partner. They shift the responsibility and blame to others. Many affected partners accept this and forgive their remorseful partner. Some of the victims even take responsibility for their violent behavior (“I provoked it”). This is how victims think they can avoid further outbreaks through their own behavior

Protection and safety

  • If you experienced violence within your family or relationship, don’t push it aside or play it down. Don’t be afraid to seek help.
  • Always carry a list of emergency phone numbers with you that you can contact in case of an emergency
  • Turn to people in your personal environment that you trust (e.g. your neighbours), so that they can call the police upon an agreed signal
  • Get information on emergency accommodation (e.g. women’s shelter, crisis-room) on time or find out if you can stay with somebody in case of an emergency.
  • When in danger call the police or emergency numbers (Frauenhelpline: 0800 222 555; Opfer-Notruf: 0800 112 112).
  • Gather evidence: Take photos of injuries or have them treated and confirmed by a doctor. If you are being harassed, threatened or stalked, document the nature and the date of the harassment.

Get in touch with us. We offer counseling and support you in taking further steps.

Self-test

Answering the following questions should help you to assess whether you are being affected by violence in your everyday life. If you answer one or more of these questions with a YES, we recommend you get in touch with us or another counselling institution. You can find a list of counselling centers under LINKS.

  • Have you ever been slapped, shoved, grabbed or pushed?
  • Have you ever been beaten or kicked?
  • Have you ever been so severely mistreated that you had to see a doctor?
  • Have you been abused during pregnancy?
  • Have you ever been threatened with a weapon or a knife?
  • Have you ever been threatened serious bodily harm or even death?
  • Are you often shouted at or verbally abused?
  • Have you ever been strangled or has somebody put a hand over your mouth?
  • Have you ever been restricted from leaving a room or moving?
  • Have you ever been prevented from talking to someone or getting help (e.g. being forbidden contact with your family or friends or having your phone taken away?)
  • Have you ever been forced to perform sexual acts?
  • Have you ever tried to protect the perpetrator or spare him consequences (by e.g. not filing charges or denying a statement)?
  • Has the amount of violence recently increased?
  • Has the amount of threats recently increased or has the interval between mistreatments shortened?