Intimate partner violence and mental health: A pervasive, still invisible intersection
Matias, Mafalda : Moreira da Cunha e Cabrita
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Intimate partner violence is both a human rights and a public health concern. Despite the existing awareness of this reality, intimate partner violence numbers are still alarming all over the world. Moreover, domestic violence myths’ persistence fuels this phenomenon. These myths are stereotypical beliefs about intimate partner violence which legitimise violence, prevent women from speaking up and help to maintain patriarchy. Survivors of intimate partner violence are likely to suffer from physical as well as mental disorders. As such, these women are more likely to reach for the healthcare sector than non-abused women. Survivors’ mental health, however, is not treated equally to physical health, as it remains surrounded by stigma and discrimination despite its importance for a dignified life. My aim is to explore the extent to which intimate partner violence survivors’ mental health is disregarded, depriving these women of their capabilities instead of helping them, and to draw attention to this hidden matter. Although mainly focusing on a feminist perspective, this research derives from a combination of different theories necessary to grasp the complexity of the problem under discussion, and is anchored in the capabilities approach developed by Nussbaum and Sen. It is also developed through different methodologies: the desk research focused on the analysis of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women General Recommendation no. 24 and jurisprudential research of all cases regarding intimate partner violence. Interviews with intimate partner violence survivors were also conducted. Through this combination of methodologies, it was possible to confirm my hypothesis: that intimate partner violence survivors’ mental health is overlooked, and this might contribute to their secondary victimisation. Key words: Intimate partner violence; mental health; gender; domestic violence myths; capabilities; secondary victimisation; healthcare sector.