By Emma Tram and Ida Maria Skovgaard Westermann

Photo: Emma Tram. Nana Byron Holmes illustrates the psychological violence and verbal abuse she has been a victim of. 

On a hot summer day, Nana Byron Holmes and her boyfriend were having a barbeque. He had texted some of his friends, but none of them answered back. He was disappointed, so Nana told him that he would have to do with just her.

Suddenly, before she knew what was happening, she was laying in her bed with his forehead being banged against hers. Prior to this he had been psychologically violent and verbally abusive towards her, but never before had it turned physical.

“I froze completely and told him to let go of me right now,” Nana says.   

But this only aggravated him more. He grabbed her by the collar of her shirt and dragged her through the kitchen and outside, where he pushed her on the grass. When he finally let go, Nana ran home, where she cried all night.

“The next morning, when I looked in the mirror, my eyes were completely red and my hair was all straggly. It was something that had happened over time, but I told myself that I would never look like that again,” Nana says.

Nana’s story is one example of how psychological abuse can lead to, and maybe even be a warning of, physical violence. And she is not the only case.

According to Birgit Søderberg, chairman of the National Organisation of Women’s Shelters in Denmark (LOKK), it is their experience that victims of physical domestic abuse often also have been victims of psychological violence.  

Nell Rasmussen, cand.jur. and independent law consultant with expertise in women’s rights, agrees to this and adds:

“When psychological violence is used alongside physical violence, it is taken care of, because the women go to a shelter to get treatment and support. But there is not much attention to it as as an independent phenomenon – only from those who work with the victims such as women’s shelters and psychologists,” she says.