Support for women: How to address domestic violence against women

Written by: Kerstin Lakits, Nov 02, 2023

“Nonviolence is a weapon of the strong.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Violence is never an option; still around a third of women in Austria experience physical and/or sexual violence in their life according to Statistik Austria. In 2022, 29 women were murdered and 23,638 women or girls were treated as victims of domestic violence in Violence Protection Centres. Every woman of every age, skin colour, religion and culture can be a victim of violence, which makes this a problem that concerns all of us. The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on the 25th of November reminds us that we are all in this together. Therefore, we have gathered information and help centres for you.

Domestic violence: What is it and who is affected?

Domestic violence refers to violence carried out by a person that has an intimate or strongly emotional relationship with the victim. The aggressor could be a family member, friend, flatmate or partner. It can happen to anybody, but the majority of victims is female and offenders are mostly men.

Domestic violence is a regular, repetitive, abusive behaviour. The abusive behaviour can be of physical, sexual and psychological nature. For example, threats, humiliation, social isolation, beatings, forced sexual intercourse and abuse are some forms of domestic violence. None of these belong into a relationship.

Most of the time, domestic violence happens behind closed doors, usually at home. This way, the offenders hide their abusive behaviour and prevent help and intervention.

It goes without saying that any and all forms of violence are illegal and punishable. Since 1997, the police is able to remove offenders from their homes to protect the victims based on the Austrian Violence Protection Act.

What are the causes of domestic violence against women?

There are many myths surrounding the causes of domestic violence against women. For example: Men can’t control their anger. Alcohol makes men aggressive. Women would leave their aggressive partners if they wanted to. None of these are true.

Research has shown that there are two main causes for domestic violence. Firstly, power and resources are unevenly distributed between men and women, which leads to a hierarchy that is conducive to violence. Secondly, our society has developed rigid gender roles, defining what men and women can or should do. This leads to attitudes and a mindset that allows for domestic violence to happen.

Violence against women: How to recognize domestic violence?

It can be really difficult to notice domestic violence as an outside observer. Partly because the offenders actively try to hide their crimes and partly because the victims don’t want (or can’t) talk about them. Nevertheless, there are some indicators for domestic violence. Here are some identifying features that point to domestic violence:

  • Suddenly no time for friends, colleagues, etc.
  • No autonomous decisions (permission of their partner)
  • No own money
  • Injuries (often without or with illogical explanations)
  • Chronic illnesses (often without physical origin)
  • Psychological problems (anxiety, panic attacks, depression)
  • A possessive, controlling and aggressive partner

Showing courage: How can I help victims in emergency situations?

If you notice that somebody is experiencing violence of any kind, you have to help. Your help is important for this person!

The most important things to keep in mind:

  • In emergency situations, call for help (police, women’s helplines)
  • Don’t look away, speak up and intervene
  • Have a conversation at the right moment (and listen attentively)
  • Offer help and support
  • Ask precise questions and show understanding
  • Get information from help centres and counselling institutions

1. Get help

Call the police if there is immediate danger! Whether you notice a violent conflict situation on the streets or domestic violence in your neighbourhood! The police can handle the situation and offer professional help. Don’t put yourself in danger, but involve experienced and trained helpers.

If you witness violence against women on the streets, in stores, restaurants or public transportation, talk to other passers-by by stating loudly and firmly “We will help now!”. It is easier to provide help together. You should also ask the bus or tram driver, employees or waiters for help.

If you know a victim of domestic violence, but don’t know what to do and how you can help that person, you can (anonymously) ask for help from the below mentioned help centres.

2. Start a conversation with the victim

At the right moment, seek a conversation with the victim. You need a safe environment, far away from the aggressor. Understanding and being-there are extremely important to make the victims feel safe and offer them support. The most important thing is that you listen carefully and don’t put pressure on them.

Try to establish trust with the victim by explaining that you will be there for her and that you’re trying to help her and will not tell the offender anything. Be a reliable contact person: “You can call me anytime and talk to me!” Maybe you can agree on a code word or sign, so that you know when she needs help.

This topic is usually extremely difficult, uncomfortable and sometimes risky for the victims. So be prepared for potential rejection or emotional explosions. Don’t take it personally, take a deep breath and stay calm. Reassure the victims that you are there for them as soon as they are ready to talk.

Preventive measures: How can we raise awareness about violence against women?

By talking about this topic, we are already tackling this problem because we are drawing awareness to it and banish the existing taboo. If we can make the victims feel safe enough to talk about it, they can get the necessary help and don’t have to suffer in silence.

We can all do something to end violence against women, by talking about it, being attentive in our own environment and seeking and asking for help if we notice (domestic) violence.

Austria supports many prevention measures: specially trained prevention police officers, awareness campaigns (e.g. “Mann spricht’s an”), prevention campaigns, help centres for men and boys and much more.

Assistance for Women: Overview of support and help centres in Austria

If you are or become a victim of domestic violence, ask for help! You are not alone! Many help centres will support you (if needed anonymously) and offer professional help according to your situation.

Help centreDescriptionContact info
PoliceThe Austrian police can protect you if you are in danger – even at home. The police is legally authorised to remove the offender from the victim’s home and keep him away from there (100 meters). This applies even if the offender officially lives there!Emergency call: 133 (Austria) or 112 (international) or via SMS to 0800 133 133
(Women’s Helpline Against Violence)
The Women’s helpline against violence is a great help centre in Austria for women, children and teenagers who are experiencing violence. You will get help in emergencies, support and advice on what to do.Phone number: 0800 222 555 (24/7, all year)
Frauenberatung Notruf
(Emergency Helpline for Women)
The women counselling centre for sexual violence offers support anonymously and free of charge. They accompany you in case of a criminal court procedure (German, English and French).Phone number: +43 (0) 1 523 22 22
HelpCh@tHelpCh@t is an anonymous online help centre. You can get advice and help from experts daily from 4pm-10pm. In addition to the help, you get further information and can contact other women.Phone number: 0800 222 555 (24/7)
(Violence Prevention Centres)
Each federal state has a Violence Prevention Centre that offers free counselling. The employees can also accompany you to police or court appointments and offer psychosocial and juridical support. You don’t have to do this on your own, the Violence Prevention Centres are there for you!Website (more information for each federal state on the website)
(Women’s Emergency Helplines)
Upper Austria, Styria, Salzburg, Vienna and Tyrol have their own special Women’s Emergency Helplines. You can find their contact information, phone numbers and counselling offers on their website.Website
(Association of Austrian Women’s Homes)
The Association of Austrian Women’s Homes (AÖF) is an extensive platform where you can get information and help. They have all counselling offers in Austria, emergency numbers and information against violence on their website.Website
Bund Autonome Frauenberatungsstellen bei sexueller Gewalt
(Association of Women’s help centres for sexual violence)
You can find counselling offers, information, help centres nearby and emergency numbers on their website.Website
24-Stunden Frauennotruf der Stadt Wien
(24 hour women’s helpline by the City of Vienna)
Social workers, lawyers and psychologists support women and girls older than 14 who have experiences physical, sexual or psychological violence.Phone: + 43 1 71 71 9 (24/7, also on weekends and holidays)
Counselling centre for maltreated and sexually abused women, girls and children
TAMAR counsels girls and women in case of sexualised violence. Furthermore, the employees support you during a criminal court procedure and offer psychotherapeutic counselling options.Phone number: 01 334 0437
(Men’s Helpline)
This helpline is especially for men and boys, but also for their loved ones and is a great help centre for emergencies. The Men’s helpline is anonymous and confidential and supports men in conflict situations. This helpline offers you information centres, emergency sleeping places, anti-violence trainings and special counselling institutions for men.Phone number: 0800 400 777 (24/7)

We are fighting against violence against women together! Don’t look away, speak up and get help in emergencies! The above-mentioned help centres will help you anonymously and free of charge!

Do not hesitate to call for help! We make support for women a priority!


We are happy to help!