Domestic violence: outcomes and implications for clinical practice and policy





Assigned to session

1.04 Erik de Vries, 28-09-2023, 15:15 - 16:30

Field of research

Public health, prevention, early interventions
(Sub)clinical interventions or treatment (innovations)

Overview of symposium

In The Netherlands, more than 1.2 million people have been victims of domestic violence in the past year. In the majority of these cases the violence was structural. Exposure to domestic violence both for children and adults may have detrimental long-term outcomes including mental and physical health problems and even death. Meanwhile, victims often face barriers to professional help such as (economic) dependency and safety issues. In the current symposium, presenters will share novel insights about the occurrence and consequences of (severe) domestic violence and provide directions for (mental) support and policy to reduce the detrimental impact of domestic violence.


No participants found...

Loss of a parent due to domestic homicide

Prof. Eva Alisic
University of Melbourne, Australia



Parental intimate partner homicide has immense but under-recognised and under-studied impact on the children who are bereaved and the people around them. Our team is conducting participatory qualitative research to better understand children and caregivers’ needs and opportunities for support. This presentation will provide a brief overview of the international evidence base as well as preliminary insights from 70 in-depth interviews with (young) people with lived experience, caregivers and a range of professionals the UK, Ireland and Australia. Interviewees conveyed a need for genuinely child-centred approaches to support, especially in the context of fragmented service responses. People with lived experience called attention to the lifelong impact of the homicide and the ebb and flow – rather than a linear decrease – of support needs over time. Several expressed an interest in sharing experiences with others with lived experience. Caregivers reported gaps in the provision of financial, mental health and child trauma specific information and support. Professionals often experienced a sense of isolation and lack of consultation options to support families. Our preliminary findings suggest that concrete steps can be taken to improve support in the aftermath of a domestic homicide, including dedicated case management, peer support, caregiver support and secondary consultation for professionals. Effective design and implementation of such measures require co-creation with young people and adults with lived experience. 



Eva Alisic

Towards mental recovery of victims of intimate partner violence committed by organized crime offenders

Dr. Chris Hoeboer
Amsterdam UMC location University of Amsterdam, Netherlands



Background: Victims of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) committed by organized crime offenders have rarely been studied while they are likely to experience severe mental health consequences and might face many difficulties in getting out of the relationship due to the criminal network of the partner.

Objective: The present study aims to get more insight into the process towards mental recovery and the feasibility of providing mental health support to victims of IPV committed by organized crime offenders.

Method: 150 female victims of IPV were identified and, when reached, offered the option for safe and anonymous mental health support for their trauma-related symptoms. We used a mixed-method design involving information from police files (n = 150), patient files (n = 7), interviews with therapists (n = 4) and interviews with patients (n = 4).

Results: A model representing the development of the relationship and mental recovery process of the victims of IPV by hardened criminals will be presented. Participants experienced limited access to regular mental health support. They were trapped in a relationship characterized by violence, psychological warfare and a forced dependency. All participants were isolated from social support and society in general. The mental health support in the current project proved challenging but feasible

Conclusions: Findings suggest that victims of IPV committed by organized crime offenders urgently need professional help. Actions to ensure their safety and to overcome barriers that hamper access to support organizations are required.


Chris Hoeboer

Passive victims or active bystanders? Children’s reactions to being exposed to intimate partner violence

Prof. Veroni Eichelsheim1, Carlijn Van Baak1
1Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement (NSCR), Netherlands



A growing body of literature reveals that exposure to intimate partner violence (IPV) places a heavy burden on children. Importantly, children’s exposure to IPV does not seem to be uniform, nor is the group of children exposed to IPV homogeneous (Holden, 2003). Although the available evidence is limited, research suggests that children may respond to violent situations in various ways, ranging from withdrawal and passivity to active intervention. According to the cognitive-contextual framework (Grych & Fincham, 1990), situational characteristics may partially drive how children perceive and appraise their experiences, which may also shape their later adjustment. In this study, we rely on IPV case files from Safe at Home, the official domestic violence agency in the Netherlands, that were collected in 2021 (N=58). First, we aim to identify the broad range of actions that children engage in during incidents of IPV. Second, we identify the consequences of children’s exposure to IPV, including their coping mechanisms, experienced coping efficacy, and perceived agency. Using extensive summaries of Safe at Home employees who conducted in-detail conversations with children, as well as information provided by other involved parties, we qualitatively analyze children’s situational involvement during incidents of IPV and the consequence thereof. As such, this study sheds light on the complex experiences of children exposed to IPV and the diverse roles they make take on during these situations.


Veroni Eichelsheim

Carlijn Van Baak

Sexual abuse and the genital response

Dr. Iva Bicanic
University Medical Center Utrecht, National Psychotrauma Center, Netherlands



Although knowledge about the impact of sexual abuse has increased significantly over time, there are still gaps and misunderstandings among mental health professionals such as the genital response (lubrication and erection) to sexual abuse.

The aim of this narrative study was to understand more about the genital response, not only how this occurs during sexual abuse, but also later in life when the abuse has ended but the memories remain.

162 adults with a history of sexual abuse told about how they experience the connection between their memories and the genital response, and how this affects their life and relationships in particular. Some disclosed that their body responded automatically during trauma-focused therapy without the therapist knowing. The majority suffered from intense feelings of shame, guilt, disgust and loneliness. Many were convinced that something was fundamentally wrong with them.

The results of this narrative study should be added to psycho-education in order to improve the understanding of the dynamics of sexual abuse, both in survivors as in mental health professionals.


Iva Bicanic