European Parliament approves report considering children witnessing gender-based violence or suffering vicarious trauma as victims

“We will do everything in our power to eradicate gender-based violence” says Esquerra MEP Diana Riba

After the European Parliament approved the inclusion of gender-based violence in the European list of crimes in the last plenary session, Strasbourg has now approved another report of outstanding importance with regard to intimate-partner violence and custody rights in the first plenary session this October. Esquerra MEP Diana Riba is the shadow rapporteur on the Committee on Gender Equality and Women’s Rights.

Ms Riba was satisfied to see that “the European Parliament is acting in a determined manner to legislate in this regard and to do everything in our power to eradicate sexist violence in all its aspects.” The report approved recognizes that children who witness intimate-partner violence and those who suffer vicarious trauma should also be considered victims of gender-based violence. Indeed, the text deals in detail with vicarious violence, a form of violence that has long been invisible, and in which the abuser applies violence on children – sometimes leading to their death – in order to inflict pain and to exercise power over the mother.

Another point made in the report is the controversial Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS). For Ms Riba, this is a fundamental aspect, as this type of syndrome “has no scientific basis but is a misogynistic construct that is used during court proceedings to perpetuate the stereotype of a bad mother.” The report calls on Member States not to recognize this syndrome and to ban its use in legal proceedings.

Although PAS has not been recognized as a pathology by any medical, psychiatric, or scientific association, it has been used repeatedly to explain an alleged negative influence that the mother might apply to children in order to denigrate the father in processes of separation. Unfortunately, there are in Spain numerous cases of women who have suffered gender-based violence or who have reported sexual abuse of their children who have ended up being diagnosed with SAP, leading to loss of custody of their children.

Finally, the European Parliament report acknowledges the institutional violence and double victimization suffered by survivors of gender-based violence and calls for the history of gender-based violence on an intimate partner to be taken into account when deciding on custody rights and visits. “An abuser cannot be a good father and our work must be based upon that consideration, shunning misogynistic and patriarchal constructs that always end up harming women and their sons and daughters,” said Ms Riba.