A PHD STUDY ON women and intimate partner violence; Prevalence of hospital visits and nature of injuries in the Icelandic population.

This study was published in the Scandinavian Journal of Public Healt in April 2020

Please find the link here.



The Women’s Shelter recently received a grant from the Minister of Social Affairs and Children to design and produce educational material in order to draw attention to the work being carried out at the Shelter.

It was decided to make a poster and stickers with the message: “The Women’s Shelter provides support and information in relation to domestic violence.”

The messages were translated to eight languages, Icelandic, Thai, Arabic, Polish, Russian, Spanish, Lithuanian and Filipino.

Now the material is being distributed, but the aim of this work is to reach new groups of survivors of domestic violence.

Here is a link to the poster

Here is a link to the sticker



In 2018 The Women’s Shelter received a grant from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Children. The product was a report on Survivors Experience and Well being and Perpetrators’ Personality Traits. It was conducted in Icelandic but it has recently been translated to English. Here is the link to the report: English version “Intimate Partner Violence – Survivors Experience and Well being and Perpetrators’ Personality Traits”


The topic of “domestic violence” / “intimate partner violence” / “IPV” / “battered women” has been researched quite a lot and it is easy to find results on it on pages such as google.com or scholar.google.com

Here is a link (most research is in Icelandic but the abstracts are often in English) on essays and projects on the topic domestic violence:  Research in Icelandic

The members of staff at The Women’s Shelter have conducted a few studies on the topic.

Here is a link to one of the research on where do foreign women go after staying at The Shelter and what do they think of the service.

Here is a link to the research (in Icelandic): “Where do women of foreign origin go after they leave the shelter? What do they think of the service?

Here is a copy of the English abstract:

Women of foreign origin living in Iceland are new to their community and are unlikely to have strong family and social support. Also, for the first four years after arrival in Iceland, women from countries outside the EEA are often dependent on their husband for their residence permit, putting them at greater risk of abuse by their partner.

The first aim of this study is to see whether women of foreign origin, especiallythose from countries outside the EEA, are more likely to go home to an unchanged domestic situation than Icelandic women. To answer this question, data on all foreign women who have stayed at the Reykjavik Womens Shelter between September 24th 2007 and December 31st 2011 was examined. A group of Icelandic women from the same period served as comparison. Ten residents of the Shelter were also interviewed.

Secondly, focus is on the Shelter’s services and support to which the women have access to see how the Shelter can improve its service to this group of women. It should be noted that the population of the study is not large enough to give statistically precise results but some idea of the situation is acquired.

The findings show that 72% of the women from countries within the EEA have a husband of the same origin as themselves, but women from countries outside the EEA usually have an Icelandic husband. 43% of those are likely to go home to an unchanged situation against 25% of women from countries within the EEA. The difference can possibly be explained by the unequal legal position on residence permits. The majority of women leaves the Shelter for a new domestic situation, particularly women from countries outside the EEA.

The women who took part in the research are by and large satisfied with the service they received from the Shelter and elsewhere. A few are critical, mostly about living in close quarters with other women, the facilities of the Shelter itself and of the educational level of the staff. Gratitude toward the Shelter and other service agencies is widespread in the research data.

Another research done by members of staff at The Shelter on how they ended up with their abuser

Here is a link to the research (in Icelandic): I don’t know how I ended up with this man”

Here is a copy of the English abstract:

The main objective of this research project is to cast a light onto the life of those women of foreign origin, living in Iceland, who have sought assistance in the Reykjavík Womens Shelter between the 1st of October 2007 until 1st of June 2009.

The findings of this research show legal status and experiences to be markedly different depending on the women’s geographical origin, because of European Union regulations regarding free movement of labour within the Union and its affiliate states of Norway and Iceland (European Economic Area). The position of those originating within the EEA area is considerably better than of those from outside the EEA. Visas for those from outside the EEA are in some cases dependent on their husbands, making them more vulnerable to violence. Ignorance and language barriers breed misuse and sometimes isolation. More than one foreign woman has been shown to seek refuge from the same man, and some men seem to systematically pick women from outside the EEA as their poor legal position makes them easier victims for their violence.

The women participating in this research are by large satisfied with the services of those in charge with their matters in Iceland. Most negative is the wait for final decisions in their cases while they dwell helpless in the Shelter. Emotional stress and fatigue weigh heavily on the women along with grave concerns about the future. They are ready to endure much hardship for their children, even return to their violent husbands.

The children are under great duress. The younger ones stay extensively in daycare while the older ones must often fend for themselves while their mothers work long hours in difficult and poorly paid jobs. Often the children are burdened with a position as interpreter and intermediary between their mothers and Icelandic society.

This places responsibility on their shoulders beyond what should be expected of such young individuals and exposes them to knowledge they should be spared witnessing.


A master thesis in social work, on the status of female sufferers of domestic violence who have sought long term refuge in the Women’s shelter and subsequently struggled to gain independence.

Here is a link to the thesis (in Icelandic): Hvert á ég nú að fara?

Here is a copy of the English abstract:


The object of this research is to examine the status of female sufferers of domestic violence who have sought long term refuge in the Women’s shelter and subsequently struggled to gain independence. The research is based on purposive sampling and the participants were women who had stayed in the Women’s shelter for over 28 days during the period from January 2009 to December 2013.

The research methods were both quantitative and qualitative. Data was received from the Women’s shelter in form of admission reports with information on the women, including information on origin, relationship to their abuser, how long they stayed and where they went as their stay in the shelter came to an end. In addition seven interviews were conducted; five interviews with former occupants of the shelter and two with professionals; a staff member of the women’s shelter and a social worker from Reykjavik’s social services.

Results show that a significant number of women seek long term refuge in the women’s shelter every year. During this period there was an increase both in the number of women as well as the duration. Of the women staying long term, a majority was of foreign decent and in most cases, married to their abuser. Most commonly when the women left the shelter they moved on to rented accommodation but on average 15% went back home to their abuser.

Lack of finances and accommodation were the main obstacles for women’s independence. All the women who were interviewed experienced extreme difficulty in becoming independent and most of them had made several attempts to terminate the relationships with their abusers. One, still resides with her partner. Overall all the women had a positive experience with the Women’s shelter but they all concluded that on its own it is insufficient. It is an emergency, short term solution and anything over 28 days constitutes a long term stay and is only possible under extreme circumstances. The results demonstrate a lack in resources for this group of women and a necessity of improvement. Thus independence for sufferers of domestic violence could be supported and the risk of them being lost in or surrendering to the system and returning home to their abuser reduced.


A masters thesis in law, on perpetrators of violence in close relations and the response of society.

A link to the thesis (in Icelandic, but abstract in English): Fremjendur ofbeldis í nánum samböndum og samfélagsleg viðbrögð

Here is a copy of the English abstract:


This thesis deals with people perpetrating violence on close relations and the response of society. What has been written in Iceland and other countries about this group of perpetrators is discussed. To shed light on them, information from The Safe Shelter for Women was examined for the period 2002-2008. The information covered 1740 perpetrators. The factors examined included age, gender, education, occupation, nationality and the relationship between perpetrators and their victims. Society’s responses are related, and the main provisions of General Penal Code, no. 19/1940, covering the violations are reviewed. The Act on Restraining Orders, no. 122/2008, is also discussed, along with provisions on heavier sentencing in paragraph 3 Act 70 of the General Penal  Code. Finally, Iceland’s international obligations on protect human rights are reviewed. Special attention is devoted to the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Nahide Opuz vs. Turkey, and to whether the Icelandic State measures up to international requirements on protecting human rights when violence between close relations is involved.

Stereotypes about perpetrators living a good life. Scholars do not agree on what causes violent behavior. theories that violent persons commit violent acts because of external factors beyond their control to a long way toward viewing violent persons as being victims no less than those suffering the violence. On the other hand, other theories argue that violent persons are no different from others; violent behavior is governed solely by attitudes and  the way the perpetrator views a victim, and violence is committed to gain power in the relationship. The main findings from researching the information from the Safe Shelter for Women tend to support these theories, for they show that violent persons are cross section of Icelandic society in terms of education and occupation. The provisions on heavier sentencing in paragraph 3 of Article 70 of the General Penal Code are assessed and are seemingly difficult to apply, and restraining orders under Icelandic law are not a sufficiently efficient remedy.


A master thesis in sociology, with aim to examine the position of women who moved to Iceland from countries outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and ended up in abusive relationships. 

A link to the thesis (in Icleandic) Ég hefði viljað vita

Here is a copy of the English abstract:


My research objective was to examine the position of women who moved to Iceland from countries outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and ended up in abusive relationships. The obstacles they face when attempting to leave the abusive circumstances are to a great extent linked to their lack of knowledge about the new society, in which they now live. The main research question is the feasibility of making civic information, in some form, mandatory for all immigrants and furthermore, how best to reach these women.

This research used mainly qualitative methods. Data was collected in seven interviews with women from diverse countries outside the EEA, all of whom had been abused by their partner. Furthermore, two experts on immigration issues, Sigrún Rut Hoffritz, an attorney with The Directorate of Immigration, and Margrét Steinarsdóttir, attorney at the Icelandic Human Rights Office were also interviewed. Currently there are no mandatory courses for immigrants that include information about local immigration laws, what resources and assistance is available and where to go for help in case of emergencies. Icelandic officials have repeatedly stated that the most important aspect of successful integration of immigrants and the key to participation in a new society, is that they be guaranteed detailed and thorough information about Icelandic society as well as information about their civic rights and duties.

The main conclusion of this research is that education for immigrants shortly after arrival in the country is imperative. The isolation of women and lack of knowledge about their new society, as well as misinformation in the form of threats from their abusive spouses, hinders women in seeking and receiving help and information. This must be improved. We must ensure that women are not forced to rely on information from spouses. They should instead have independent access to important information about Icelandic society, the resources available and where to find them.

A master thesis in criminology and criminal justice on “Looking at intimate partner violence in heterosexual relationships using Situational Action Theory” 

SAT and Goffman’s dramaturgical approach can both be applied to IPV; however, SAT works better in the IPV context than Goffman’s dramaturgical approach. Results have demonstrated different factors are at play when IPV is analysed, such as: witnessing domestic violence in childhood, alcohol use, jealousy, and pregnancy, among other factors. It seems that a combination of different factors may lead to IPV and not just one factor. These common factors lead to IPV even in different countries.

Here is a link to the thesis (it is in English): Looking at intimate partner violence in heterosexual relationships using Situational Action Theory


A masters thesis in social work, on children who are exposed to domestic violence and their stay at The Shelter. (This project is done by an non-member of staff)

A link to the thesis (in Icelandic): Dvöl barna í kvennaathvarfinu

Here is a copy of the English abstract:


The purpose of this study was to increase knowledge on children that are exposed to domestic violence and their stay in Kvennaathvarfið, the shelter for battered women in Iceland. Using both qualitative and quantitative research methods, this study’s objective is divided into three parts.

Firstly the experiences of children who stayed at the shelter were analysed. Secondly, the mother’s desire for her children to be counselled during their stay was measured. Finally, the shelter’s counselor’s methodology and approach were examined.

There were a total of nineteen participants in this study. Qualitative interviews were conducted with five shelter workers and three children. Furthermore, eleven mothers who stayed at the shelter with their children agreed to complete a questionnaire. The safety and support of children exposed to domestic violence is of paramount importance.

This study’s results indicate that children who stay in this shelter are not provided with sufficient and appropriate support. The results indicate that it is important to address the issues of children in the shelter in a more comprehensive manner and in cooperation with other relevant agencies.


A masters thesis in sociology with aim to gain information on women’s experiences ending a violent relationship with men.

A link to the thesis (in Icelandic): Að stíga skrefið

Here is a copy of the English abstract:


This study focuses on the experiences of women ending a violent relationship with men. The research method was qualitative and ten participants were interviewed. The thesis is divided into nine chapters. The first chapter focuses on the background of the subject, the limitations of the study and key terms are defined. The second chapter contains a theoretical discussion and a summary of previous research in the field. Also the resources available to help women in this situation are studied and the purpose of the study presented. The third chapter explains the methods used in the conduct of the study, data collection and processing, as well as the research question. Chapter four through eight then covers the results of the study and in the ninth and final chapter the research question is answered by summarizing main conclusions from the study and discussions.

Results indicate that women suffer significant stress when a violent relationship ends. Fear of the man, worries about finances and housing as well as prejudices from society are examples of symptoms of stress. All of the women experienced health problems, physical and mental, both during the relationship as well as after it ended. Today half of the women are unemployed due to illness. In addition, the women felt that the resources available to help women in this situation were not sufficient and that changes were needed there.