Psychological violence

Psychological violence comprises all acts of violence such as insults, humiliation, degradation, threatening, creation of feelings of guilt, shouting, intimidation, control or prohibition of contact with family members or other outside contact, and confiscation of salary.

What is psychological violence?

Psychological violence refers to attacks on a person’s feelings, thoughts, self-esteem and self-confidence. The exercise of control and power over another person plays a huge role in this. Psychological violence can include:

  • insult, humiliate, demean and abuse
  • threaten and frighten; e.g. saying they will kill the children or themselves
  • create feelings of guilt
  • shouting and intimidation
  • jealous behaviour
  • children in particular; e.g. neglect, 

Social and financial violence are other specific types of psychological violence.

Social violence can include:

  • control or prohibition of contact with family members or other outside contact
  • isolation and loss of agency.

Economic violence can include:

  • confiscation of salary and property
  • forbidden or forced to work
  • sole power of disposal over financial resources

Psychological violence is more subtle and less visible than physical violence, but that does not mean it cannot have serious consequences. Victims can suffer from social withdrawal, a reduced sense of self-esteem and mental health impairments, such as sleeping and eating disorders, poor concentration and performance, feelings of anxiety and/or depression. Click here to find out more about the consequences of domestic violence.

When does psychological violence begin?

Psychological violence often begins insidiously and escalates slowly but steadily. Victims and the people around them often fail to recognise it for a while. The pressure put on victims, the amount of control exerted and the threats often increase over time. In many cases, people also talk about a spiral of violence. Click here to find out more about the spiral of violence.

Is psychological violence punishable by law?

Yes. Since psychological violence does not leave any visible wounds, it is more difficult to prosecute under criminal law than physical violence, but it is also punishable. Since there are many kinds of psychological violence, several articles of the Swiss Criminal Code (StGB) may come into consideration.

The list below is not exhaustive:

You can contact a victim counselling centre for a precise assessment of your legal situation. It offers free advice and can also refer you to a lawyer if necessary. Additional information about the legal situation can be found here.