Domestic Violence


Global estimates published by WHO in November 2017, indicate that about 1 in 3 (35%) of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime. In Europe it states at 1 in 5

According to recent figures in Portugal, domestic violence

  • Second most reported crime amounting to 8% of all crime
  • 84% of victims were female
  • 23% of cases there were previous incidence of violence
  • Tragically in 35% of cases these were witnessed by children
  • 78% victims and perpetrators current or formerly partners
  • 2019 – 29,400 cases up 11.5% (1)

Difference between domestic abuse and domestic violence

Domestic abuse as an incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and violent behaviour, including sexual violence

Some examples of domestic abuse:

  • Shows extreme jealousy of your friends and time spent away
  • Keeps you or discourages you from seeing friends or family members
  • Insults, demeans or shames you with put-downs
  • Controls every penny spent in the household, or takes your money
  • Looks at you or acts in ways that scare you
  • Controls who you see, where you go, or what you do
  • Prevents you from making your own decisions

The crime of domestic violence was introduced into the Portuguese penal code in 2007.

Art. No. 152 of the Penal Code (Law 59/2007, of September 4 with the amendment of article 152 of the Law No. 19/2013 of 21 February

Domestic violence is a public crime

Anyone can file a complaint / complaint with the PSP, GNR, Judiciary Police, Public Prosecutor or Legal Medicine Institute. Also via the internet through the Electronic Complaint System.

Whether the victim lodges a complaint or not, a complaint / complaint or knowledge of the crime is sufficient for the authorities to act and for an investigation to be opened.

Rights of Victims

Victim status involves the following rights:

  • Right to Information
  • The victim has the right to be informed about:
    • The services and / or organizations to which you can go to get support and what kind of support you can receive;
    • The procedures following the complaint and what their role within them;
    • How and under what terms can you receive protection, namely police, procedural and psychosocial approach appropriate to your case and proportional to your needs;
    • The modalities of legal protection to which can access: legal advice, support judicial and other forms of counselling provided by law.

Victims of domestic violence are entitled to receive cash benefits from the State whenever, as a consequence of the crime of domestic violence, they find themselves in a situation of serious financial hardship

Victim support

  • APAV Support offices provide support. Victims can use the internet and the telephone and receive support which includes:
    • Emotional support immediately after the crime is committed;
    • Timely psychological support to the victims, their friends and relatives;
    • Legal advice about their rights in each stage of criminal proceedings;
    • Having a support professional accompanying the victim to police stations or other services;

In cases where the victim is a tourists APAV can provide help in: contacting airlines to cancel or reschedule flight tickets and contacting relatives in their country of origin.


The following is by Kate MacGowan Advisor to Safe Communities Portugal

“It’s our duty to stand up for women…” stated Antonio Tajani, the Italian President of the European Parliament between 2017 and 2019, in his introduction to the White Ribbon campaign against violence to women but the overall incidence in Portugal shows little sign of significant decrease.

No great changes

 The statistics for domestic violence In Portugal are contained in the 2020 Internal Security report (RASI) with registered cases at 27,637, marginally down on those recorded in 2019. However, there is little room for complacency as in the past ten years the annual figure has remained between 26,000 and 30,000 – and these are only the recorded figures with many women in Portugal too frightened or ashamed to contact the Polícia de Segurança Pública (PS), Guarda Nacional Republicana GNR, or Polícia Judiciária (PJ) to seek help.

On the positive side, legislation has been introduced that makes such abuse and violence a criminal offence and the provision of support, education and prevention initiatives should have increased the number of women coming forward to report their abusers, pushing the annual figure upwards.

The Portuguese Penal Code has been clear as, since 2007, it criminalises ‘physical and psychological abuse, including physical punishment, deprivation of freedom and sexual offences … regardless of gender’ inflicted by an aggressor who ‘maintains or has maintained a similar relationship to spouses, even if not living in the same space.’

In Portugal, the majority of reported domestic violence cases in 2020 were by a spouse or partner (85%) with a slight increase of domestic violence against minors. Of these victims, most are in adult relationships that have turned to violence, with 93.1% aged over 25.

As for the relationship between victims and those reported, in 48.6% of the cases the victim is a spouse or partner; in 15.6% it’s a child or stepson; in 15% it’s a former spouse or partner and in 5.9% it’s a parent or stepparent, according to the RASI report for 2020.

The types of abuse towards a family member, including ex-spouses and partners, parents and children, include physical attack and intimidation, sexual, emotional, psychological, financial and verbal abuse, and ‘social isolation’, e.g. preventing contact with family and friends, and access to phone, and denying access to healthcare.

Some violent acts against women have resulted in death. The Observatory of Murdered Women reports that over 500 women have been murdered in Portugal in the past 15 years and that the Portuguese justice system often is criticised for handing down feeble sentences – domestic abuse in Portugal is punishable with a prison sentence of one to five years – and for being overtly sexist. It seems only when women are murdered, that sentences are commensurate with public expectation.

Covid-19 hasn’t helped

Globally, Covid-19 has a lot to answer for as periods of national lockdown have caused cases of domestic violence to soar worldwide – a report by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), suggests ‘a rise of 20% due to pandemic restrictions.’

The periods of Covid-related lockdown for many women in Portugal was a nightmare with an increased fear of being assaulted or verbally abused.  This fear will have caused some to comply, to avoid triggering further violence against them and their children.

The cost to taxpayers associated with violence against women, estimated by the European Institute for Gender Equality) at €2.3 billion a year, goes beyond an increased need for health care as there are long-term costs in unemployment and psychological support.

Looking at the geography of abuse and violence in 2020, Portugal’s big cities remained the most likely locations where women are abused, with Lisbon, Porto and Setúbal leading the national rate, accounting for just under half of all cases in 2020.

In more rural areas of the country, the number of reports of domestic violence decreased last year with the districts of Beja down 3.2%, Coimbra down 3.2%, Portalegre down 17% and Vila Real decreasing an astonishing 70%.

What about men?

Around 15% of victims of domestic abuse are men but in Portugal, the incidence towards male victims remains hidden, pretty much ignored by the State and of incidental interest to the general public.

The trend for male victims is to be subjected to psychological violence, followed by physical and sexual violence. The majority of men do not class themselves as victims as they are ashamed and feel there is nobody out there to help and nowhere to turn.

In 2016, the António Silva Leal Foundation opened a pilot project at a shelter in the Algarve specifically for male victims of domestic violence and abuse, operating in much the same way as the country’s 40 shelters for women.

Carlos Andrade, president of the foundation, stated that in the case of male victims “psychological violence has a greater impact” than when the victims are women and children.


Portugal has a national action plan ‘to prevent and combat domestic and gender-based violence,’ covering domestic and sexual violence. Also, Portugal was the first in the EU to ratify the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combatting violence against women and domestic violence, (2013).

Women in Portugal have access to barring orders, no-contact orders and other form of legal protection. Emergency protection orders are available and victims now have a special status so that restraining orders can be issued within 48-hours, also, electronic surveillance can be ordered for perpetrators.

What to do?

Those in Portugal who feel at risk, whether national, residents or visitors, or who are victims of domestic violence and abuse do have help available:

Call the anonymous, confidential 24/7 domestic abuse helpline on 800 202 148 to speak with a trained support worker, who can inform you of your rights, give you psychological and emotional support, and guide you through the next steps.

Call the Portuguese Victim Support Association (APAV) helpline (+351) 116 006 (available Monday to Friday, 9am-9pm) for free legal advice and for emotional and psychological support.

If you need emergency assistance, call Portugal’s national emergency number 112. If you need medical treatment, go to the A&E Department of your nearest hospital or health centre.

For British passport holders, the British Consulate in Portugal is also there to help, call (+351) 21 392 4000.

APAV – Associação Portuguesa de Apoio à Vítima   Tel no: 116006

AMCV – Association of Women Against Violence   Tel No +351 213  802 165

UMAR – Alternative Union of Women and Response   Tel no +351 218 873 005