Male domination and violence towards women
in the Swiss family


Précédente Remonter Suivante



Male domination and violence towards women
in the Swiss family

(Not an official translation) 

Principal results of a study representative undertaken within the framework of the national research program (PNR35) " Equality of the women in the right and the company " By Lucienne Gillioz, Jacqueline de Puy, Veronique Ducret Office of the equal rights between man and woman 2 street of the Tannery, 127 Carouge - Swiss Geneva 

Cet ouvrage est publié avec l'appui du Fonds national suisse de la recherche scientifique.

Jacques Scherrer Editeur
Ó Editions Payot Lausanne, Nadir – 1997
269 pages – ISBN 2-601-03206-5
Imprimé en Suisse

Lucienne Gillioz
Service pour la promotion de l'Egalité
2, rue de la Tannerie
Tel. 0041 22 301 37 00
Fax 0041 22 301 37 92
E-mail : lucienne.gillioz(


Switzerland did not have any total figures up to now on the marital violence nor even of rough estimates as one finds some in other European countries.  This study thus quantifies for the very first time the domestic violence which strikes women in Switzerland. This first Switzerland also represents an event on the European level: only the Netherlands carried out a survey of this type in 1986.

The study was undertaken by three enquiring within the framework of the " Office Geneva’s of the equal rights between man and woman ". Financed by the Funds national of scientific research like by several Offices of the equality, it aimed to study the reports/ratios of domination within the couples in Switzerland, and more particularly violence physical, sexual and psychological undergone by women.

 This research made it possible to draw a picture quantified of violence, its width and its gravity, its effects on women.  It also wanted to describe the mechanisms which underlie it by comparing violent families and families without violence, as well as the strategies which women use to face the aggressions of which they are the object.  Lastly, it was interested in the representations which have course in the public concerning violence, the violent man and the forced woman.

Research comprises two aspects

- a quantitative investigation carrying into a sample representative of 1500 women from 20 to 60 years, alive in couple to Switzerland and questioned by telephone by means of a structured questionnaire

- a qualitative investigation privileging the point of view of the women and resting into about thirty talks deepened with women victims of violence.

Last nine points summarize the principal assets of the study.

For reasons of clearness, the results of the quantitative investigation are presented in first and it is well specified when the enquiring ones refer to the data of the qualitative investigation.

1.  The reports/ratios of domination of the man on the woman in the Swiss company appear in the form of observable inequalities in various spheres.  These reports/ratios of domination can be regarded as the causes macro-social or structural of the violence made against the women within the framework of the couple.

From a sample representative of 1500 women living in couple, one located the following inequalities between the sexes

Women have vocational trainings and professions of level lower than those of their spouse.

Whereas those often made trainings or studies of tertiary level (university, higher professional school) women are more frequently without formation or with formations of mean level.  They are thus found on the labour market in positions less advantageous than the men, more frequently in not qualified employment and much less often frameworks higher, frameworks averages or independent.

The division of the labour in the couple remains based on a traditional diagram which places the woman in position of economic and social inferiority.

The studied couples live in majority according to a traditional model of division of work (remunerated and domestic), assigning with the woman a statute less developed and devoting its economic dependence. Indeed, less than one woman out of 5 alive in couple works full-time outside, whereas the men, them, are in their large majority full-time on the labour market.

This situation involves an unequal access to the financial resources.   Women of our sample lay out of an average clean income of 1908 francs per month against 6033 francs for the men.  The man remains, consequently, the principal provider of the household in the majority of the families of Switzerland, 10% only of women contributing as much (or more) that unites to them with the common resources.

Corollary of the unequal division of remunerated work, the studied women continue to assume the greatest part of housework and family, only 6% of the couples carrying out a levelling division.  That the woman works or not outside does not change the things basically, since only 16% of the couples where the man and the woman work full-time share with equality domestic work.  The myth of the new fathers who occupy many of their children is contradicted by our data:  the assumption of responsibility of the children remains generally the business of women.

2.  Violence is not rare in the families of Switzerland and touches an important proportion women.

During her life, more than one woman out of 5 is touched by physical and/or sexual violence within the framework of a relation of couple. More precisely, 12,6% of women underwent physical violence, either close to one on 8, and 11,6% of sexual violence, or approximately one on 9.  As for psychological violence, 40,3% of the questioned people underwent some.








 By limiting the observation to the 12 months preceding the investigation, one notes that 6,1% of women endured physical and/or sexual violence and 26,2% of psychological violence.  Among the women who separated during the last 12 months, the proportion of women forced physically during this period is assembled to 20%.  On the 84 physically attacked women, 20 had wounds and 7 were wounded on several occasions.  The majority of the attacked women announce more than one aggression, that as well for physical violence as for psychological violence.  Physical violence are generally accompanied by psychological violence whereas the reverse is not checked.

Several reasons give reason for thinking that the figures indicated underestimate the reality of violence in Switzerland

- The topic of violence against women remains a very strong tabo- in Switzerland.  However, it is known that the less socially one phenomenon is recognized, the more it is difficult to speak about it for the people concerned and the more invisible it remains.

- The study holds account only women currently living couples some or recently separate.  It excludes all the other women, in particular those which are separated or divorced since more than one year, among which the victims from violence are likely to be over-represented.

- Among women who refused to take part in the investigation, there are strong chances that the forced women are also over-represented.

- It is possible that certain questioned women hid the violence undergone because of the proximity of the husband during maintenance.

 Other data resulting from our investigation corroborate the extent of violence in the Swiss company.  A great number of women know in their entourage of women struck by their husband.  More one on 5, out of the 1500 women questioned, said to have among its knowledge at least a woman currently struck by her husband or his friend.  More than one person out of 2 knows at least a woman who was struck during her life by her partner.

According to the type, gravity and frequency of the violence undergone during 12 months preceding the investigation, a typology of women forced for this period was established.  It emphasizes 4 groups

1) the maltreated women (32 cases) It are touched by violence, since they underwent at least an act engraves (to beat, strangle, use a weapon, etc.)  or of the acts relatively less serious (to push, to slap, etc.)  but repeated (4 acts and more).  Almost all these women knew psychological violence in parallel.  A woman maltreated on 2 was wounded by her spouse.

2) the attacked women (48 cases) They lived physical violence, but relatively less serious than the preceding ones and less frequent (1 to 3 acts during 12 months preceding the investigation).  They only are seldom wounded, but in approximately 3/4 of the cases, they undergo also psychological violence.

3) the violated women (12 cases) They had to undergo sexual relations imposed by the force or the threat.  Four of them also underwent physical violence and 9 psychological violence.

4) the offended women (318 cases) They did not live physical or sexual violence, but of the psychological aggressions.  Two sub-groups arise:  on the one hand, women victims of repeated violence (4 acts and more during the year preceding the investigation) which is 152 and, on the other hand, women victims of not very frequent violence (N=166) which underwent between 1 and 3 acts during 12 months preceding the study.

The qualitative investigation made it possible to explore more in smoothness psychological violence which were retained only in the form of verbal violence (insults, insults) or behavioural (ex:  to break an object) in the quantitative investigation.  More subtle forms of violence were thus underlined, namely

- the denigration, of which the most current form can summarize itself by the formula " You are not good with nothing ", - the humiliation which consists to scorn and lower the woman, in particular in front of thirds,

- harassing, forms persecution which does not leave the quiet woman,

 - the attack with the autonomy which prevents the person from freely acting.

30 testimony collected made it possible to illustrate these violence.  Certain women stressed that psychological violence can still make more badly than the blows.  II is thus necessary to keep itself to regard it as a minor form of violence.

As regards the sexual sphere, the talks in-depth showed that beside the marital rape exist other forms of abuse.

It acts:

- of the constrained sexual relations,

- of the sexual harassment,

- of the love repair (sexual relations after violence), - of the rejection like forms sexual humiliation.

 3.  Violence is not confined with certain categories of the population;  it crosses social cleavages

Violence is not confined, as one supposed a long time, in certain social backgrounds or certain categories of the population.  One does not find differences significant in the statistical plan in the rates of forced women, whom it is young women or people about ripe age, Swiss women or the foreign ones, the town ones or women living in the countryside, of frameworks or not qualified employees.

4.  Violence is associated with certain family characteristics, most determining is the predominance of the man.

At the level micro- social or family, one of the factors most correlated with violence is the capacity of the man in the interactions of the couple, called predominance to distinguish it from the forms structural of being able.  Predominance can be defined like a whole of strategies aiming or having for consequence to place the woman in situation of inferiority.  Thus 80% of the husbands having inflicted violence with their wife present an average index of predominance to fort, while 79% of the husbands without violence have an index of weak or null predominance.  The coherence and the consistency of the results obtained on all the indicators of predominance considered lead to the conclusion that this dimension of the relational dynamics of the couple is an important factor of violence.

The results give reason for thinking that, in a certain number of cases it is in their family of origin, by seeing their father striking their mother, that the man, and to a lesser extent the woman, learned that violence is a " normal " means to solve the conflicts.  Indeed, the fact of having grown in a family where violence domesticates or violence against the children was present constitutes a factor of risk to reproduce this type of behaviour at the adulthood.

Other factors also appeared associated with violence

- a bad communication in the couple, preventing the man and the woman to express their needs, their feelings and lived to them of the situations.  The qualitative investigation showed us that they are especially the men who refuse the dialogue, women aspiring to more exchanges,

- a family system not very open on outside,

- the alcohol consumption of the husband.  This factor is not at the origin of violence but accompanies it in a certain number of cases.

The qualitative analysis made it possible to apprehend in a more complete way the family context of violence and to highlight the multiple facets of the reports/ratios of domination in the couples where the man is violent.  II appeared clearly, with the listening of women, that violence constitute a strategy of domination among good of others.  Those are spread

- in the economic sphere where women undergo deprivations (little or not money given for the household) and of the abuse(control of their expenditure, reproaches on their purchases, etc.),

- in the domestic sphere:  the large majority of women d- not receive any help of their spouse and their work is not explicitly recognized,

- in the control which is exerted on them and which touches with various aspects of their life (social relations, exits, activities, etc.),

- in the decisions concerning the everyday life.  The man resorts to various strategies, more or less subtle, to impose his capacity:  thus the threat to start a conflict or the refusal to broach subject.  But the most subtle form of domination remains interiorization by the woman of the will of her husband.

Thus referred to the family context in which it takes seat, violence appears under its true day:  not simply loss of control or sudden, but tentative explosion of the man to dominate the woman, to control it and fold it with its will.

5.  Violence have consequences on the well-being of women, their health, their consumption of drugs, their perception of themselves. They concern also the children.

- The well-being and the taste of living women victims of physical or sexual violence or psychological violence repeated are lower than those of the other women.  They are said much more often tired, sad and anxious.

- These women give an account of a health worse than the other women. Women undergoing of physical or sexual violence consume approximately twice more often of calming or tranquillizing (30% of the cases), of sleeping pills (14% of the cases) and of antidepressants (11 % of the cases) that women which d- not undergo violence.

- Perception that they have of themselves and more precisely the feeling of control of their life and the regard of oneself are started.

With regard to the children, it arises that

- more half of the children living in a violent family attend always or often the arguments of the parents,

- the majority of the men violent one physically with their wife d- not strike their children;  they strike them however more often than the men not violent one.  As for the forced women, they strike their children more often than the other mothers, but as more often as unites to them.  This last observation is not astonishing:  they are women who assume the assumption of responsibility and the education of the children and, in addition, the risk exists that they defer on them violence and the conflicts which they live in their couple.

6.  Women undergoing of violence can also be aggressive, but II acts in their case mainly of react ional violence.

As well the quantitative investigation as the qualitative investigation showed as the forced women can express aggressiveness, generally verbal, towards their spouse.

By analysing these cases according to the context, the enquiring ones conclude that one can interpret them according to same logic only male violence.  Whereas these last have as a function to dominate the woman and to subject it, female violence are explained mainly like self-defence or reactions, if not to declared violence, at least to a situation of domination or abuse the husband

 7.  Far from being passive, the forced women deploy various strategies to face the violence of their spouse.

The qualitative investigation reveals a whole range of strategies implemented by women forced to react to the potential or declared violence of their husband.

The study distinguishes four categories of strategies

- strategies of fold:  women adopt a low profile to avoid the conflicts and to escape violence,

- strategies of skirting:  women resort to means diverted (lies, omissions) to safeguard a share of autonomy and to avoid conflicts,

- strategies of resistance:  women affirm and impose limits on the aggression,

- strategies of rupture:  the rupture is a long and difficult process. Several attempts are often necessary before women d- not manage to leave definitively unites to them.

On the 30 forced women, studied in the qualitative investigation, 16 left unites to them.

8.  The recourse to the abstract network of assistance is frequent, while the formal system of assistance and social control is requested little by the forced women.  The reactions of the entourage as those of the police are not always adequate.

The network of abstract assistance (relationships, friends, knowledge, etc.)  is often solicited since 2/3 of women entrusted to one or more close people and say, for the majority, to be helped on the moral or practical level.  The questions put in the quantitative investigation remain however to- limited to make it possible to know up to which point women really entrusted and to judge effectiveness of the received assistance.

The different lighting suggested by the qualitative investigation shows that the entourage is not always adequate in its reactions towards the forced women.  The answers of the entourage can be gathered in 3 main categories

- the refusal or the vulgarising of the problem returns women to their sufferings and their loneliness,

- the encouragement with the maintenance of the marital bond and the tender constitutes an obstacle with the stamping from women,

- the incentive with the rupture and the refusal of violence has the advantage of encouraging women to condemn violence and to consider a separation.  But it can als- appear problematic when the entourage makes pressure and does not respect the rate/rhythm of evolution of the woman.

Only a minority of women (11,7%) having undergone physical, sexual or psychological violence called upon a professional help.  The professions to which they are addressed more are:  psychologists, psychiatrists and doctors;  are also solicited the lawyers, the adviser-era-S marital, the pastors and priests as well as the social services.  A little less than half of women who resort to the network of assistance (46,3%) estimate very satisfied with these professional, approximately 37% rather satisfied and 16% at all satisfied.

The authorities of social control (police force, justice) only are little used.  On 32 women having undergone serious or repeated physical violence, 7 only called upon the police force and 4 deposited a complaint.

Testimony resulting from the talks in-depth show that women d- not have, generally, not found the assistance and the support which they discounted of the services and authorities of assistance and social control.  Worse, in a certain number of cases, they undergo a secondary victimisation.  It clearly comes out from their testimony that the phenomenon of marital violence, and in particular their sufferings, their hesitations and their difficulties of separating from the violent spouse, are not included/understood by the professionals which often keep prejudices sexists in their connection.  On the other hand, the assistance brought by the hearths specialized in the lodging of women forced in the unit was very appreciated.

9.  In the plan of the principles, the female public interrogated does not admit violence and often legitimates an intervention of the entourage.  The stereotypes relating to the man violate are in the process of regression.  On the other hand, those concerning the beaten women seem more resistant among women themselves.

In the plan of the principles, violence is not allowed by the near total of the questioned women.

The large majority of women decide for an intervention of the entourage in the event of marital violence.  It is necessary however to be conscious that this question returns to a behavioural standard and not to the effective behaviours.

The stereotypes introducing the violent man like alcoholic or as pertaining to the underprivileged mediums are in the process of disappearance, only a minority, considerable however, still adheres to it.  On the other hand, the stereotyped images of the beaten woman still have the hard life.  Although 70% of women refuse the opinion according to which the beaten woman led to end her husband, only 4 women out of 10 estimate that women d- not have nothing to d- with violence of their husband.  As for the caricatured image of the beaten woman, passive victim which does not d- anything to come out itself of there, it is still accepted by more of the 2/3 of the questioned people.

The research report will be published in the Payot Editions and will come out of press in May 1997.

October 1996


Précédente Remonter Suivante