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The historical context of violence against women and the role of the psychologist

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COSTA, Alex Junio Duarte [1]

COSTA, Alex Junio Duarte. The historical context of violence against women and the role of the psychologist. Revista Científica Multidisciplinar Núcleo do Conhecimento. Year 06, Ed. 07, Vol. 04, pp. 21-37. July 2021. ISSN: 2448-0959, Access link:


Making a clipping of the times past to the present day, the objective was to verify how the fight for gender equality began and how transgenerational social movements influenced the acquisition of rights for women in an international way and advanced reaching Brazilian legislation where, based on affirmative policies and specific guarantees for women, the country created a legal framework that seeks to ensure the respect and dignity of women , resignifying what it is to “be a woman” in the country. Thus, in order to advance the understanding of the search for social equality of genders, it was necessary to make a brief journey through the past, bringing the discussion of how symbolic violence, still present today, plays a major role of inferiorization of women. For this, the research – of qualitative nature – also has the following types: theoretical, documentary and bibliographic. Thus, the work had as specific objectives: (1) To understand the historical perspective of the relationship of gender domination based on symbolic violence; (2) Verify the progress of Brazilian legislation; (3) To determine how psychological assistance is organized and what its role is in the institutions responsible for welcoming women who are victims of gender/domestic violence. In the present work, it could be observed that, in Brazil, affirmative policies have great legal instruments, but without due efficiency. Therefore, despite the legal support, the Brazilian State is among the most negligent and violent in the world when it comes to violence against women, and the main reason is the squealing of the institutions responsible for the care of such occurrences.

Keywords: gender violence, feminism, multiprofessional, public policies, symbolic violence.


“The work of the dominators is to divide the dominated” (BOURDIEU, 2020).

Violence against women is a theme that gained great relevance from the 1970s in Brazil and the rest of the world, with even more prominence at the beginning of the 21st century to the present day. It can be defined, according to the Convenção Interamericana to Prevent, Punish and Eradicate Violence Against Women (1994), to be “any action or conduct based on gender that causes death, harm or physical, sexual or psychological suffering to women, both in the public and private spheres” (BLAY, 2003; BOURDIEU, 2020; BRASIL, 1994, 2006, 2011; SILVA, 2018).

This type of social despotism based on gender is revealed to have a strong repressive content and takes into account socio-historical constructions and differences in physical attributes to establish the behavioral parameters of each sex in society and relationships (BLAY, 2003; POLI, 2007; SILVA, 2018). Thus, gender-based violence is established from a design of what is fit for each sex within affective and social relationships, leaving for the male figure sovereignty and for the feminine subordination where, because they are permeated by subjective symbols, aggressiveness and oppression, the construction of a social hierarchy and abusive affective relationships is unveiled that relies on the seal of social customs (BLAY, 2003; FONSECA; RIBEIRO; LEAL, 2012; MONTEIRO; SOUZA, 2007; SILVA, 2018).

In view of this, the woman is verably the occupant of the victim’s position in gender relations. It can be considered that some matrimonial conjectures and preconceived cultural forms of the relationship between man and woman can aggravate and predispose even more the almost absolute domain of the former in relation to the partner, establishing a kind of autonomy to determine the ways in which it will manage the relationship, bringing physical and psychological punishments as ways to demarcating their role and reaffirm their authority (BLAY, 2003; BOURDIEU, 2020; FONSECA; RIBEIRO; LEAL, 2012).

The consequences of this type of unequal relationship in women can be perceived socially in aspects such as low self-esteem and the difficulty of socialization, and the bridal pact created in these arbitrary circumstances may create an emotionally fragile woman with difficulties in establishing other social ties than with her husband, having problems also in positioning herself and dismaying abuses , due to feelings of guilt and impotence (BLAY, 2003; BOURDIEU, 2020; FONSECA; RIBEIRO; LEAL, 2012; MELO; SOUTO, 2018; SILVA, 2018).

Thus, as for the relevance of the research, it is perceived that it encompasses the possibility of social contribution given the breadth and historical perpetuation of the relationship of domination and gender violence in Brazil, observing how the social context and weak adaptations to the legislation make the country a dangerous platform of aggressions against women who have as an audience the Brazilian society and the rest of the world.

Therefore, in the search for the understanding of the current struggles and existing public policies taken by female empowerment, a brief historical path of the hostile relationship between genders was made, making an overview until the present day, aiming to understand how the acquisition of rights such as being a lady of one’s own body, the struggle for privileges before exclusive to men and the consequent emergence of the feminist social movement became important instruments of requisition of law s politicians, civil and guarantees against possible abuses arising from the gender relationship in the international scenario and, later, in Brazil.

Thus, with regard to the most recent data on gender violence in Brazil, even with the advances in legislation and the creation of specialized services, the country is inefficient in containing these types of abuses by demonstrating a primacy in national and international reports and estimates that verify the theme, bittering frightening data and positions. As an example we can mention that a woman is killed every seven hours for the simple fact of being a woman, causing the country to occupy the 5th place in the world in the feminicide ranking; almost half of Brazilian women have experienced sexual harassment at work; in Minas Gerais, it is estimated that domestic violence reached more than 82,000 women in 2020 (BRASIL DE FATO, 2020; UNIVERSA, 2020).

One of the possible reasons, which may be strongly linked, to the size of man’s despotism, was exposed in the report released by the United Nations (UN) in 2020[2]. Brazil is bitter in the antepenultimate ranking of gender political parity in Latin America, a study that evaluates the proportion of elective office occupation by women and men, and one of the main causes pointed out of the low female eligibility is gender political violence that are attacks aimed at candidates or elected women who focus directly on gender (UNIVERSA , 2020). Thus, the little political representativeness aggravated by the precariousness of existing public policies can contribute to the already exposed Brazilian data on violence against women.

Given the personal and social impacts that are caused to women, as victims of abuse so, added to the notorious advance of Brazilian norms on the subject, the present work verified, based on contributions from social theorists and Brazilian legislation, the socio-historical context of violence and the constitution and need to articulate the network of care for women victims of abuse. Thus, the development of the work had as methodology of theoretical, documentary and bibliographic research.

In the design of qualitative research, the preparation of the papers will not be based on data collection. However, the work took into account a theoretical-conceptual framework throughout the research process and scientific documents that portray the national and world reality (GONZÁLEZ REY, 2005).

As for theoretical research, the present work is relevant when seeking generalist theoretical representations considered from the established theoretical framework, adding them to the researchers’ ideas, to shed light on a specific moment of contemporaneity, creating an articulation between the theory presented and the current moment of his research (GIL, 2002; GONRALEZ REY, 2010; LAVILLE; DIONNE, 1999; SAMPIERI; COLLADO; LUCIO, 2010). With regard to documentary research, we searched for scientific materials so that we could have a peculiar access to the reality investigated, indirectly, through the study of statistical data and other documents produced by humans (SILVA et. al, 2009).

With regard to bibliographic research, material was gathered to offer us a critical reflection of the object studied, seeking scientific works and legal norms that could tell us about the reality studied in ancient times and today, in order to make an interlocution between the past and the present to compare and reflect on the advances and setbacks of contemporary society and current norms (MARCONI; LAKATOS, 2017).

From this perspective, the research had as a general objective: To verify the socio-historical factors of gender violence and, from there, how the evolution of public policies to cope in Brazil occurred. And as specific objectives this work is available to: 1) Understand the historical perspective of the relationship of gender domination; 2) To verify the progress of Brazilian legislation; and 3) To investigate how psychological assistance is organized by observing its role in the institutions responsible for welcoming women who are victims of gender/domestic violence.


They call witches women who are free to love and hate; / Witches are called women who know their right to come and go; / Witches are called women who give voice to their ideas without fear of rebuke; / Witches are called women who follow their desires; / Witches are called free women and owners of themselves. / Pleasure I am a Witch! (OSÓRIO, 2018).

The hostile relationship and gender domination refer us to Aristotelian theories (ROUDINESCO, 2003 apud SOUZA, 2013). In them, humans would be divided into three categories, man being the lord and father; the woman was the wife and mother and; the slave who was “the thing of the lord”, being soulless and close to the animal. The woman at this time would be situated below the man and above the slave, that is, between intellectuality/culture and animality, being an inverted man who submits to the commands of the lord and who should not participate in social issues because there is a certain irrationality among its characteristics (SOUZA, 2013).

Also according to Roudinesco (2003) and Souza (2013), the relationship of domination and distinction between the sexes and, later, on genders went through several theories and approaches that, legitimized by great scientists and religion over the centuries, struggled in the search for biological and cognitive differences with regard to sex. In addition, cultural or identity differences were also addressed to talk about gender, clearly demonstrating, due to the duplicity of explanations on the subject, the historical difficulty of justifying such a distinction.

Most of the claims found in the 19th century to justify the supremacy of one gender over the other were based on physical and sociological issues and took as technical examples the analogy between elements or objects of nature to clearly circumscribe their positions (BIROLI; MIGUEL, 2015; BEAUVOIR, 1949 apud TESCHE; WEINMANN, 2018; BOURDIEU, 2020; GARCIA, 2018; OSÓRIO, 2018; ROUDINESCO; 2003; ROUDINESCO, 2003 apud SOUZA, 2013; SOUZA; 2013; TESCHE; WEINMANN, 2018). Therefore, for comparison purposes and, although they are too strong, correspondence was commonly found between male – animal; female – vegetable; man – culture; woman – nature.

It was only with the maternilization of the family in the 19th century, directly linking the woman’s femininity to motherhood that she can actually occupy an active place in society and, given the importance of her corporeity and attributes ,”generated fear for the loss of control of her body” (SOUZA, 2013, p. 4). This historical moment made women make the decision to rebel by restricting man’s access to their bodies, because he was an invaluable asset to them, it was a signifier that demarcated them as a subject in the family and in society becoming an active agent with an important role in the process of social construction (BIROLI; MIGUEL, 2015; GARCIA, 2018; ROUDINESCO, 2003; ROUDINESCO, 2003 apud SOUZA, 2013).

This manifestation of rebellion was welcomed by the church and gave a significant social advance in the recognition of what it is to be a woman, attributing to her her first active space in society and contributing to them being recognized as ladies of their own body and no longer a property of the husband, gaining more privacy and autonomy in the family sphere (BIROLI; MIGUEL, 2015; GARCIA, 2018; ROUDINESCO, 2003).

But despite this first step, it was only from the advancement of studies of the philosophy of Lights that the theorists of the time began to relativize and even more vigorously challenge the justifications of the distinction between men and women in society. It has since been perceived that it was marital authority that subjugated them and excluded them from civil actions that the process of claiming equal civil and political rights for both sexes intensified (BIROLI; MIGUEL, 2015; BOURDIEU, 2020; GARCIA, 2018; OSÓRIO, 2018; ROUDINESCO; 2003; ROUDINESCO, 2003 apud SOUZA, 2013; SOUZA; 2013; TESCHE; WEINMANN, 2018).

Therefore, says Souza (2013, p. 4):

But it is with feminism at the end of the 18th century that the struggle for equality between men and women relates to a project of revolution of society that will start a long movement of women’s emancipation. At the end of the 20th century they came to dominate all the processes of procreation, which caused, according to Roudinesco, a new family disorder. There was fear of the abolition of differences and generations.

Then, from the 20th century on, the feminist struggle gained strength in the search for emancipation. Women gained control of procreation processes, causing a new family disorder, causing fear of loss of control by males and abolition of differences (ROUDINESCO, 2003 apud SOUZA, 2013).


“No one is born a woman, becomes a woman” (BEAUVOIR, 1949 apud TESCHE; WEINMANN, 2018).

From her findings the feminist writer and activist Simone de Beauvoir (1949, apud TESCHE; WEINMANN, 2018) brings this aforementioned and pertinent aphorism that evidences the political status of what it is to “be a woman” when, when she seeks to distinguish gender from gender, she reports an important social factor.

Thus, the author claims that sex would be a biological condition and gender was socially constructed, referring solely and exclusively to the roles and political-social positions, which are elaborated through culture, through which patterns of behavior were created for each of them, leaving for the woman, compulsorily with, among other duties, passivity and submission to man (BUTLER, 2003; ROCHA, 2002 apud TESCHE; WEINMANN, 2018).

So, despite the advances of feminism and the acquisition of rights by women, a segregated discourse is still present in society. This discourse seeks to legitimize the inferiority of the female gender and to grant men exclusive prerogatives. This form of violence appears veiled in society, being reproduced by both genders as something natural and with existence being sometimes unnoticed (BOURDIEU, 2020; BUTLER, 2003).

In the book “A Dominação Masculina”, sociologist Pierre Bourdieu (2020) argues that male domination takes place through habits and social patterns that are learned and reproduced in daily life unconsciously by both genders. And that, despite seeming harmless, reinforce the creation of stigmas and carry with them the differentiation of people by sex and other biological characteristics, making a kind of social hierarchy overlapping one gender to the other.

Such occurrence reported by Bourdieu (2020) was called symbolic violence, this name was given by the characteristics of the social phenomenon that, because it is a series of beliefs derived from the socialization process, establishes a “natural order of things” where due to the physical and psychic characteristics of the woman (female) is fit to subalternity in relation to the man (male), creating patterns of behavior for both genders, and the escape of these models is seen with revulsion and collective repression. Therefore, despite being more veiled, symbolic violence produces effects similar to those contained in past centuries by actively repressing women.

Thus, today, man is conferred through symbolic violence, the privilege of being the lord and maintainer of society, which can do everything, and it is only up to those who are his equals: the other men. In the home, he is sovereign, the true owner of the family, being able to do everything that comes to his head and coerce so that his authority is not challenged through an active repression and a socially constructed discourse, seeing himself in the right and with irrevocable prerogatives to do what he wants in this context, being able to physically and psychologically assault members who challenge his authority (BOURDIEU, 2020; BEUAVOIR, 1949 apud TESCHE; WEINMANN, 2018; BUTLER, 2003). The woman, is placed in contemporary society as a second in the family hierarchy and, being the only adult besides the man, must be fully used, being responsible for keeping the home organized for his arrival.

Due to an active desire for domination, which is exercised in the bonds built by him, man seeks to repress and control the wills and knowledge of his family members, and his authority, which stops him is insophistable, must be respected (ROUDINESCO, 2003). When you feel your authority put at risk, by a supposed desire, or attempt to overlap and the consequent taking of office by the woman, the male pole of the relationship tends to direct some hostility and aggressiveness to your challenger, which, in fact, may represent the lifid fear of becoming the passive in the relationship and having directed to it all the discourse that is today placed on the woman (BOURDIEU , 2020).

This is said, whenever the woman positions herself as a subject actively present in the conjugal relationship and in society the fear of man will come to the fore and aggressiveness may be her defense. A woman who has, for example, a higher job, can be seen as a threat to the position of the man of maintainer of the house and society, and there may be an active hostility of him towards her: a dismay with the most socially privileged woman, avoiding her only by social conditions or a violent discursive attack to affect her psychologically , seeking a continuous demoralization and deauthorization, may be ways found by man to assert his authority to the one who is present (BOURDIEU, 2020; BUTLER, 2003; SOUZA, 2013).


“It is through work that women have been decreasing the distance that has kept her from man, only work can guarantee her concrete independence” (BEAUVOIR, 1987, p. 14).

In Brazil, legally speaking, even with the class struggles that intensified on the national and international scene in 1970, it was only from 1988, with the promulgation of the Federal Constitution, that women began to have recognized their equality, noddedly in relation to men, rights and obligations in society and conjugal relationships (BRASIL, 1988; ROUDINESCO, 2003; SILVA, 2015; SOUZA, 2013).

This legal omission found until 1988 only reflects the state’s indifference and indifference, which is still present today, since laws are edited according to need and social demand. And since we live in a society marked by male domination, it is typically sexist and authoritarian. In addition, the little representation that women have always had in Brazilian politics and this scenario is justified: a dominator will not create laws to defend the dominated of his authority and abuses (BRASIL DE FATO, 2020; UNIVERSA, 2020).

Nevertheless, there is still a lack of chance and indifference today, present with the weak adaptations to the legislation by the federal entities, the precariousness of care and by placing victims of abuse in vexatious situations and humiliation, questioning them with a certain suspicion of what is reported. Another form of embarrassment is the confrontation of the victim with the abuser, making the woman a victim once again, this time of the Brazilian legal system (PEIXOTO, 2012; UNIVERSA, 2020; VASCONCELOS, 2016).

With the difficulties of the public service in articulating and the social and international demands in the search to ensure respect and physical, moral and psychological integrity to women, Law 11.340, popularly known as the “Maria da Penha Law” and a number of other legislations on the subject, were created and aim to give greater legal support and the realization of articulated work between various public sectors that provide a series of specialized services in the theme, providing reception and optimizing care for women in situations of violence in Brazil (BRASIL, 2006; FARINHA; SOUZA, 2016).

In view of this, Costa; Njaine and Schenker (2017) make an important consideration when they say that the traumatic consequences for victims go beyond the physical order, reaching the psychological and/or social and may remain for life. Psychological problems such as anxiety and depression may appear, as well as psychosomatic diseases, panic and posttraumatic stress disorder, which may also affect the relatives of the offended and the aggressor, because the dynamics of family relationships can be compromised, causing damage to the mental health of the limbs (COSTA; NJAINE; SCHENKER, 2017).

Thus, the confrontation with gender violence has gained a series of regulations for the expansion and improvement of the quality of care, among them the Política Nacional de Enfrentamento à Violência contra as Mulheres stands out. It aims to establish concepts, principles, guidelines and actions to prevent and combat violence against women, guaranteeing the rights of those who are in conditions of violence, using national and international human rights laws as a parameter (BRASIL, 2011).

With the implementation of this policy, welcoming women in situations of violence in Brazil rises to another level, significantly improving the services provided. There was also the expansion of the concepts of gender violence where, according to the Política Nacional de Enfrentamento à Violência contra as Mulheres  (2011, p.8):

[…] violence against women cannot be understood without considering the gender dimension, that is, the social, political and cultural construction of masculinity and femininity, as well as the relationships between men and women. Violence against women occurs at the relational and social level, requiring cultural, educational and social changes to cope with them and a recognition of the dimensions of race/ethnicity, generation and class in the exacerbation of the phenomenon […]

This new legal concept also encompassed the symbolic violence defined by the aforementioned sociologist Pierre Bourdieu (2020) which, although not directly expressed by the order, was considered by recognizing the influence and relevance of the social field with its customs, beliefs and knowledge that can help in the propagation of gender violence, and important changes in these scenarios are necessary for the reduction and even extinction of this type of oppression (BRASIL 2006; BOURDIEU, 2020).

Since then, considering that the elaboration of women after several psychological and physical aggressions, added with a dubiedade of feeling in relation to aggressor and aggravated, especially when it involves marital situations, due to financial and emotional dependence on the spouse, the Network of Care for Women in Situations of Violence was created, which is a set of actions and services of various public sectors (such as the judicial system , public security, health services and social assistance) that have specialized teams that seek full reception, appropriate referral and humanization of care (BRASIL, 2011).


“I’ve always been a feminist. This means that I oppose discrimination against women, all forms of gender-based inequality, but it also means that I demand a policy that takes into account restrictions imposed by gender on human development” (BUTLER, 2020).

With the advance of Brazilian legislation to provide an integral reception to women victims of abuse, the Specialized Centers for Women’s Care were created, which are part of an articulated network of services with a highly specialized team and became an important instrument for coping with domestic and gender violence in Brazil. These centers have a technical operational staff composed of psychologists and social workers who are highly specialized in welcoming the victim and the appropriate referrals (BRASIL, 2010, 2011).

In this way, the professional psychologist will enter the articulated network in order to promote welcoming and qualified listening, a tool that aims to demonstrate the importance of the welcome and its experience that aims to bring tranquility and security during the process so that it can help the assaulted and understand the moment that is going through , thus making it an instrument of paramount importance to reduce the negative feelings that surround it such as frailty, despair, loneliness, hatred, guilt, sadness, anxiety and anguish (BRASIL, 2010, 2011; COSTA; NJAINE; SCHENKER, 2017).

Then, psychology professionals will be, together with social workers, those responsible for welcoming and exercising their duties to minimize harm. Thus, Lisboa (2014, p. 18) quoting Velázquez (2006) makes an important observation regarding the psychologist’s practice:

[…] clinical experience allows identifying three types of feelings in women who suffer violence: feeling of helplesss; feeling of being in permanent danger; feel different from the other people around you. For the author, these feelings usually arise from the pain and impotence of not being able to transform what has passed, leaving marks on the body, affects and everyday life.

Lisboa (2014) concludes that the psychology professional is fit to strengthen the woman’s self-esteem, so that she can make more right decisions and move to her empowerment and emancipation. Deconstructing stereotyped stigmas and social roles, the professional should work seeking to make her conceive a new look, getting away from that place where she lived in submission, humiliation and aggression, making it possible to relearn to live without so many social ties and be able to position herself as an active subject and with decisions specific to what he wants or not for his life (CFP, 2005; LISBOA, 2014).

Moreover, the psychologist will act as a true confidant of the patient within the multidisciplinary team, evoked whenever necessary, the confidentiality that is pertinent to him and seeking to exempt himself from preconceived thoughts and derived from the generalism that multidisciplinary teams can present (CFP, 2005). Being required a feeling to know what is of interest to be passed on to the multidisciplinary team and what will remain in secrecy, being kept only in the office environment (CFP, 2005).

Finally, the psychologist can act as a mediator of internal conflicts and, by exempting himself from the luxury of wanting to be the owner of knowledge, work so that these common divergences within multidisciplinary teams do not harm the evolution of the cases attended (COSTA, 2021).


The Brazilian legal framework for combating gender violence is broad and current, however, ineffective. We can attribute this inefficiency to various reasons, such as: the continental dimensions of the country that are a stalemate for the scope of public policies and for government oversight; the squealing of welfare networks made by local governments by relocating resources and reducing the interest of the State in advancing such policies; and, the little female representation in the municipal, state and federal legislative power (BRASIL DE FATO, 2020; UNIVERSA, 2020).

Thus, despite the evident national advances regarding the policy of combating gender violence and the representation of women, the fight against the male dictatorship is far from over, the fact that a woman suffers domestic violence every two minutes in Brazil in 2018, totaling 263,067 bodily injuries framed in the Maria da Penha Law and the record rapes in the same year , reaching the mark of 66,041 records, demonstrate the male feeling of impunity and superiority in relation to women, since they imagine them as property and object of pleasure with which everything can do (UNIVERSA, 2020).

Therefore, this demonstrates and it is appropriate to emphasize that, only an advance in legislation alone, without the enrichment of services to combat violence with equipment, increased coverage of services and real training of professionals who are part of the front line, is not enough.

It can be said that Brazil already has a huge legal device and good enough to improve its data, but what it lacks is precisely the essential, the core: trained, valued and equipped humans; class awareness and education to respect differences and divergences.

It all starts at the foundation, that is, in education, where those who live in the nation will learn what it is and how to avoid symbolic violence. In addition, it must be permeated by the creation of legislation, improvement of psychological support and efficient restrictions of freedom against those who escape their frameworks. But The Brazilian rulers want to reverse the process and ignore the step-by-step, starting with unimaginable places just to do political marketing, leaving aside the pillars of execution that are necessary to make up a building and, in this way, there are no major practical advances in confronting such types of violence.


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2. Available in: Accessed: 26 Jan. 2021.

[1] Specialist in Mental Health and Psychosocial Care, Specialist in Politics and Society and graduated in Psychology.

Submitted: April, 2021.

Approved: July, 2021.

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Alex Junio Duarte Costa

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