Violent experiences are a considerable psychological burden for both women and their children – especially if they occur over a long period of time and when they are followed by other forms of psychological strain. The result are often psychological impairments, which include all forms of mental disturbance and illness as well as addictions.
Women with psychological impairments also seek protection and support in women’s shelters. This involves great challenges for many facilities. Psychological diagnoses are seldom available upon arrival. Women’s shelters are inadequately equipped to accommodate women who are under considerable psychological strain: That several women and children have to live together in a confined space and with little privacy is burdening to everyone. Most women’s shelters also have insufficient staff resources to support women with psychological impairments.
This situation entails that highly strained women will not be accommodated. Attempts at referring women to other facilities often fail because of deficits in the psychiatric-psychotherapeutic system. There is the danger that the women who are affected by violence continue to be exposed to violence, that they remain in precarious living conditions and that they develop chronic disorders.
Counselling centres mostly regard themselves as specialised counselling services for women who are affected by violence and who are under psychological strain. This holds true especially for counselling centres on sexualised violence. But such counselling centres are often also not able to provide adequate support: Long waiting lists for initial counselling appointments, and long intervals between individual counselling sessions pose a major obstacle for women under psychological strain.
Moreover, affected women often have to wait long for outpatient treatment and trauma-specific inpatient care. The services in this field are insufficient. Many counselling centres bridge waiting periods by offering other counselling services. The working conditions in women’s shelters and counselling centres are in need of improvement, especially when it comes to staff resources, so that women who are affected by violence and under psychological strain can be supported adequately.
FHK is active in the working group on the mental health of women affected by violence, which is organised by the Working Committee on Women’s Health (AKF e.V.).
Supporting women with mental disorders who are affected by violence, handout published by the Association of Women’s Shelters in 2015 (PDF, in German).
Working Group on Women’s Health in Medicine, Psychotherapy, and Society (AKF e.V.), website with information on the topic of violence against women (in German).