logo en full


The word “victim” is often associated with women. And the perpetrator is commonly thought of as a HE, a man, who evolutionary is programmed to hunt, conquer and be violent. However, women also commit violent acts and take advantage of the stereotype that presumes their innocence. In this article, Joanna Stojer-Polańska, Ph.D., forensic scientist from SWPS University examines the dark side of women.

There are several thousands of domestic violence cases reported in Poland every year. In 2015, men were the perpetrators in over 70,000 of these cases, while women in over 5,000 cases. Women were charged with abuse of other women, men, children or elderly parents. So much for the statistics. In reality, domestic violence belongs to the category of “dark (or hidden) figure of crime”, i.e. crimes or misdemeanors that have never been reported due to fear, shame or lack of awareness.

Additionally, there are pathological families, where violence and abuse are part and parcel of social heredity. It means that members of such families accept the behaviors they observe at home, because for them this is the norm. Violence is normal for them, therefore no one reports it. Even when neighbors report the incident, it is difficult for the Police to conduct the investigation, if the victim does not see himself or herself as a victim and the perpetrator does not feel responsible for doing something wrong. In such cases no one cooperates with the Police and the courts.


There are families where women abuse, threaten and blackmail others. It is difficult for an abused man to ask for help, because the shame might be worst than abuse. “Maybe I deserve it? Maybe she will change? Or she will report that I beat HER. I will never see my children again, because the Police will believe her and not me.” It is hard to imagine the situation, when a grown man walks into the police station and reports that his wife beats him. In the majority of such cases the phenomenon called secondary victimization occurs, when the Police ask embarrassing questions. They might smile mockingly or make suggestive comments that the victim is a sissy and should man up.

Physical abuse may not necessarily be the cause. Women may engage in psychological abuse. For example, they may isolate the partner from his friends and family, keep checking his mobile phone or visit him unexpectedly at the workplace. At the same time, the women may take on the role of a victim. If this happens, it is really difficult for a man to find a reason to punish the woman, even if he finally decides to stand up to her or do something about the abuse.

Women also engage in sexual abuse. They can rape other women or men. It is extremely difficult for a victim of such crime to report it to the Police. Children may fall victim of this crime too. People automatically associate the phenomenon of pedophilia with men as perpetrators. But women can also be pedophiles. They spend more time with children and have more opportunities. They can victimize their own children or children of other people, whom they take care of. And no one would even think twice that a woman could be a pedophile. Could a nice young woman or a sweet older lady do something so terrible?

The Polish Penal Code does not mention the gender of an abuser. Formally, gender does not matter, but will the court assign the custody of children to the man in case of a divorce? In Poland, it happens very rarely, even if the man fiercely fights for his children. An influencing factor may be the gender of the judge. Female judges often preside over custody cases.

During divorce proceedings, the parties involved report all kinds of crimes or misdemeanors that have never happened. Women accuse men of sexual abuse of children or physical abuse of the whole family. It is not always true. If there is no proof, then it is a case of “he said, she said”. Who would you believe? Abuse can be very tricky. The masters of abuse manipulate their victims in such a way so that they do not even realize that they are becoming a victim. And once everything is done, the victim is left with nothing: no children, no home, no car and no friends.

There are numerous theories that attempt to explain why women commit fewer crimes than men. Perhaps they are inherently good? Perhaps they have too much to lose (the family)? Perhaps they are cunning and they manage to avoid capture? Perhaps the courts do not punish women with incarceration? Perhaps men do not report incidents, when they become victims of crimes committed by women? Probably all of these reasons play a role in these statistics.



Sometimes the line between the perpetrator and the victim is blurred. It is hard to tell who is who. The victim needs a perpetrator and the perpetrator needs a victim. Sometimes, they change places, like in a good movie. Or they take on both roles. One person is usually better than the other in playing one of the roles. Especially in evoking empathy in others.

Sometimes women kill. The reasons may vary and include not only self-defense, but also cold calculation. Some of the motives may include an inheritance, a new partner and the desire to build a new life with him. In such cases, the new partner may become an accomplice. A woman who is madly in love and who was betrayed by her lover, can kill. Her love is toxic. She loves too much and her partner does not appreciate it. A woman may kill, because she can no longer bear the abuse. Her partner has been drinking and abusing her for forty years and one day she snaps and stabs her partner once with a deadly force. Is she the perpetrator or the victim or maybe both? In cases like this, the courts have a problem, because the woman admits to committing the act: “yes, I had a knife”, but does not admit her guild “I did not want to kill him”. Should she be tried for murder or a manslaughter?

There are drastic situations when a woman decides to kill herself and to kill her child at the same time. This is called an extended suicide. Professional literature indicates that if a man makes such a dramatic decision, he usually kills his partner and the children first, and then commits suicide at the end. Women usually kill the children and themselves, but not the partner. Research does not indicate why women spare their partners. Are women not able to kill their partner, because they are usually physically weaker than men or maybe they do not see the partner as part of the family? It is also difficult to know what tragic events might have brought a woman to make such a fateful decision.


Annually, a few thousands of people commit suicide in Poland. In 2014, there were over 6,000 suicides, including over 5,000 suicides committed by men. Women more frequently than men attempt so called demonstrative suicides. They declare the intention of taking their own life and undertake actions such as swallowing medication or inflicting hesitation (tentative) wounds, which do not result in death. Because these women do not really want to die. Their act is a cry for help and attention.

Women can be very strong. Since they are better in showing emotions, they cope better with stress than men. Women also are better at recognizing their emotions and at talking about them. Despite this fact, it is not easy to explain why there is a significant difference between the number of suicides committed by men and women. In this aspect women are definitely a stronger sex.

Programs in English
at SWPS University


Criminal statistics indicate that only a few percent of convicts are women. The majority of prisoners are men. According to the report published by the Polish Ministry of Justice in 2015, the number of female convicts in Polish prisons amounts to less than 2,500, out of 70,000 prisoners in total. There are many reasons for this situation, but it does not mean that women do not commit crimes. They do, but the crimes committed by women vary from those committed by men.

Firstly, women rarely commit crimes that involve physical force, but if they do, sometimes they are more brutal than men. There is not enough data on psychological abuse, because it usually goes unreported regardless of the perpetrator’s and the victim’s gender. Secondly, if women commit crimes, especially crimes that go against the stereotype of the weaker and fairer sex, they are judged more severely than men for the same behaviors.

Women may commit crimes against property, such as fraud. Since they are perceived as gentle and good, it makes it easier for them to scam people. The only crime where gender makes a difference is neonaticide. The Polish criminal code defines neonaticide as killing of a newborn baby by a mother, as a direct result of giving birth. Neonaticide is usually treated as manslaughter, as opposed to murder, and it carries a lower sentence than a murder.

Women can also be charged with infanticide. It happens when a woman kills a child for other reasons than as the direct result of giving birth. For example, when drank parents harm a child, because the baby cries too much and interferes with the drinking party. A woman, who drinks heavily during pregnancy, may also be charged with endangering the life of a minor. For example when she gives birth, while being under the influence of alcohol. In such cases the baby may be born with the blood alcohol level amounting even to 0.3 percent.

Serial crimes that draw a lot of publicity, are less often committed by women. Perhaps it stems from the fact that their modus operandi is different. There have been cases of so called “black widows”, who kill their husbands for money or “angels of death / angels of mercy”, i.e. nurses or caregivers, who kill patients under their care. They can save a life and they can take it.

There are numerous theories that attempt to explain why women commit fewer crimes than men. Perhaps they are inherently good? Perhaps they have too much to lose (the family)? Perhaps they are cunning and they manage to avoid capture? Perhaps the courts do not punish women with incarceration? Perhaps men do not report incidents, when they become victims of crimes committed by women? Probably all of these reasons play a role in these statistics. Life proves time and time again, that we often do not know the real motives and circumstances that are crucial in a given case. Therefore, we often cannot assess the situation appropriately and we do not know how to help the victims, regardless of their gender.

joanna stojer


Joanna Stojer-Polańska, Ph.D. - Joanna Stojer-Polańska, Ph.D - legal expert and forensic scientist. Academic lecturer and educator in criminalistics, criminology and law enforcement. Her research interests include forensic medicine, profiling, suicides, and crime prevention. At SWPS University in Katowice, she lectures about the dark (or hidden) figure of crime, i.e. unreported crimes.

Popular Science Blog

Popular Science Blog 12-12-2017

New Year’s Resolutions or How to Achieve Your Goals

Making a permanent change in your life requires stepping out of your comfort zone. It demands effort and sacrifice that come not only from your willingness to put in the...

Read more

Popular Science Blog 01-12-2017

Emotional Decluttering Before the Holidays

December is the time of year conducive to looking back at the year that was, a time for a little bit of soul searching and summarizing what went well and...

Read more

Psyche Space 29-11-2017

A Perfect Christmas Gift

Is it better to give or to receive? Does an ideal present, perfect for everyone, exist? Ewa Jarczewska-Gerc, Ph.D., social psychologist from SWPS University talks about problems, choices and motivations...

Read more

Psyche Space 28-11-2017

Why do you need a support network?

Psychologists often note, that mutual exchanges of social support are an important aspect of personal strength and wellbeing. Everyone has a network of relationships with other people which they build...

Read more

Popular Science Blog 16-11-2017

Know Your Rights: Illegal Job Interview Questions

A job interview is a stressful situation. Even a well-prepared candidate may be surprised with an unexpected question. Should you answer all questions during a job interview? What should you...

Read more

Popular Science Blog 10-11-2017

New Technologies and Protection of Personal Information

The existing laws and regulations are not aligned with the current development of new technologies, which generate gaps in personal information protection systems, with an ever accelerating speed. Businesses face...

Read more

Popular Science Blog 06-11-2017

Tips for Effective Goal Setting

Your goal is your North Star. It is the reward at the end of the road, but it is also the beginning of the road. A well-defined goal provides strong...

Read more

Popular Science Blog 02-11-2017

Self-sabotage - why do we do it?

Procrastination, excuses, and overcommitting are some of the methods of self-sabotage. Professor Dariusz Doliński, social psychologist from SWPS University in Wrocław, explains why some people focus their efforts on impeding...

Read more

Popular Science Blog 27-10-2017

“It’s Complicated” - New Relationship Model

According to research conducted by Jean Williams and Jasna Jovanovic and reported in Sexuality and Culture in 2015, over the past twenty years, non-monogamous relationships have become mainstream. Will these...

Read more

Popular Science Blog 25-10-2017

The Dark Side of Women

The word “victim” is often associated with women. And the perpetrator is commonly thought of as a HE, a man, who evolutionary is programmed to hunt, conquer and be violent...

Read more

Popular Science Blog 17-10-2017

Work-Life Balance or Burden?

The more you work the more productive you are. It seems logical. If it takes X minutes to produce Y number of products then one should be able to produce...

Read more

Popular Science Blog 09-10-2017

Holidays, Pop Culture and Marketing

According to the 2013 survey conducted by the Public Opinion Research Center (CBOS), as many as 72 per cent of Poles opposes commercialization of holidays. Despite this opposition, many people...

Read more

Popular Science Blog 29-09-2017

Effective Learning - How to Study to Get Great Results

Effective learning means working smarter not harder. Professor Czesław Nosal, psychologists from the Wrocław Faculty of Psychology at SWPS University explains how to study to get the best results and...

Read more

Popular Science Blog 11-09-2017

Becoming Yourself

“Be yourself” is a popular tenet of the Western culture. According to this viewpoint, to have a good life and garner admiration of others one must live in harmony with...

Read more

Popular Science Blog 31-08-2017

How to Overcome Post Vacation Blues

The end of vacation and the return to your daily routine and the usual responsibilities may cause uneasy emotions. Joanna Gutral, psychologist from SWPS University, explains how to deal with...

Read more

Popular Science Blog 22-08-2017

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road? Curiosity as Motivational Force

What motivates people? What makes them venture into uncharted territories despite doubts and apprehension? What pushes people to constantly experiment? Why do people look for new solutions when they could...

Read more

Popular Science Blog 10-08-2017

Summer Vacation, Your Pets and Animal Rights

When the weather gets warmer and temperatures rise, leaving your pet in the car, even for a few minutes, may result in tragic consequences. Unfortunately during the summer, the number...

Read more

Popular Science Blog 07-08-2017

Internet Generation and Phenomenon of Entrepreneurship

The development of technology has always been one of the key factors of entrepreneurship growth, but who are the modern day entrepreneurs and how they succeed? Magdalena Kubów, management and...

Read more

Popular Science Blog 25-07-2017

Can Lack of Sleep Actually Kill You?

In today’s fast-paced 24/7 world that never unplugs, there are so many responsibilities, tasks and online distractions that tend to creep up on the time previously spent on exercise, cooking...

Read more

Popular Science Blog 24-07-2017

Virtual Vacation

These days more and more experts suggest that to enjoy your vacation and to fully experience the beauty and richness of the world, you need to log out and unplug...

Read more

Popular Science Blog 21-07-2017

The Power of Simple Acts of Kindness

How do you define kindness? Most people would intuitively answer that being kind means doing nice things for other people. Others might add that kindness includes being kind to oneself...

Read more

Popular Science Blog 19-07-2017

Can work make you happy?

A popular belief is that high earnings are the most important aspect of job satisfaction. However, research shows that although the salary is a significant factor of professional happiness, it...

Read more

Popular Science Blog 13-07-2017

How to Like Yourself

Self-esteem is a very important aspect our wellbeing. It affects the way we look at our achievements and relationships and it impacts the way we perceive our future. High self-esteem...

Read more

Popular Science Blog 21-06-2017

Five Tips on Decision Making

Every day we make choices. Most of the time, we make decisions about insignificant things, such as: latte or cappuccino, white shirt or blue shirt. However, from time to time...

Read more

Popular Science Blog 14-06-2017

Five Strategies for Overcoming Procrastination

“Procrastination is like a credit card: it's a lot of fun until you get the bill” – this apt and humorous simile was coined by an actor Christopher Parker. Many...

Read more

Popular Science Blog 01-06-2017

Robot Teaches Programming and Helps to Name Emotions

During my flight to Earth, my spacecraft crashed into an asteroid. Its parts scattered all over the world and now children help me find them. This is a story of...

Read more

Popular Science Blog 26-02-2017

Oscars as Element of American Mythology

Nowadays, the annual Oscar Gala has become a global celebration of cinema. It is an event full of glitz and glamour attended by artists and celebrities from around the world...

Read more

Popular Science Blog 14-12-2016

Quo Vadis Pakistan? Radical Islam and Religious Minorities

In Pakistan, torn by internal conflicts, radical Islamic groups are growing in strength. They often use the so called “blasphemy laws” as the justification for brutal attacks on their victims...

Read more

Popular Science Blog 18-11-2016

Artificial Intelligence in Recruitment and Career Planning

In today’s economy, companies that know how to attract and keep well qualified employees are the most successful. The task of finding the best talent with great potential is a...

Read more

Popular Science Blog 01-11-2016

Memories, Identity and Mortality

November is a month of remembrance in many countries. North American nations celebrate Memorial Day and Remembrance Day, which are devoted to commemorating fallen soldiers and surviving veterans. Catholics around...

Read more

Popular Science Blog 17-10-2016

Test of Salt for Seasoned Managers

Professor Mark Snyder, social psychologist from the University of Minnesota, joked that he would not like to have a boss who seasoned his meals prior to tasting the food. Why?...

Read more

Popular Science Blog 19-01-2016

Influence of Money on Human Behavior

A study conducted in a group of children, has shown that handling money may reduce helpfulness and generosity, but increase perseverance and effort applied to difficult tasks. The study was...

Read more

Popular Science Blog 07-10-2015

Designer Drug Generation

Designer drugs are the fourth most popular recreational stimulant used by young people today. The majority of users know these psychoactive substances only by their street names, such as “Cocolino”...

Read more

Popular Science Blog 23-02-2015

Weighty Data

Can abstract properties of an object influence its weight estimate? An international group of researchers, including psychologists from SWPS University in Sopot, studied what properties influence weight estimates with respect...

Read more