The long-term effects of domestic violence are far reaching and often devastating for victims – most often women and children. Women and children, who live in an environment where domestic violence commonly occurs, face increased risks because of the tumultuous atmosphere in their lives. Women may develop an impaired ability to nurture their children and contribute to their positive development. Children, whether victims themselves or just witnesses, may withdraw from their parental relationship, suffer seriously delayed or distorted development, and emotional problems.
Effects of Domestic Violence on Women
The effects of domestic violence on women go beyond the immediate physical injuries they suffer at the hands of their abusers. Frequently, domestic violence survivors suffer from an array of psychosomatic illnesses, eating disorders, insomnia, gastrointestinal disturbances, generalized chronic pain, and devastating mental health problems like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Many abused women find it difficult to function in their daily lives because of the effects of domestic violence. Absences from work, due to injuries or visits to the doctor, often cause them to lose their jobs, making them less able to leave their abusive situations. They may feel ashamed that their partners abuse them, see themselves as unworthy of love, and suffer from a significantly diminished self-perception. Because of their feelings of low self-worth, these women become isolated from friends and family and do not participate in social activities common to others in their demographic.
Domestic Violence and Children
When most people hear or see the phrase, domestic violence and children, they see images of bruised, beaten, burned children in their mind’s eye. Certainly, these physical injuries represent immediately visible effects of domestic abuse. But children who only witness domestic violence suffer consequences just as far reaching and devastating as those seen in physically battered children. Studies indicate that children from violent homes, who witness the abuse of their mothers at the hands of their fathers, experience mental health issues similar in intensity and magnitude to those experienced by physically battered children. Similar research shows children, who both witness their fathers abusing their mothers and are themselves battered, suffer the most profound behavioral and emotional distress. Children who grow up in violent households may exhibit a host of adverse behaviors and emotions, including:
- Become violent themselves in response to threats (in school or at home)
- Attempt suicide
- Use drugs and abuse alcohol
- Develop eating disorders
- Abuse themselves (i.e. cutting)
- Anxiety and depression
- Poor social skills
- Enter into an abusive relationship later on
Suggestions for Domestic Violence Survivors
Domestic violence survivors need to seek help in coping with the effects of domestic abuse, even if they’ve left the abuser. Whether it’s been days or years since the domestic violence last occurred, domestic abuse survivors can look to their communities for help:
- Contact a local domestic violence support group
- Make an appointment with a therapist who specializes in treating domestic violence survivors
- Create a comprehensive domestic violence safety plan with the help of a victim assistance professional. The plan will include a strategy for getting yourself (and children, if any) to safety during a violent episode as well as a checklist of items to pack when leaving the abusive situation.
Consider your legal options. Domestic violence is a crime in all 50 states (Domestic Violence Laws). Your local domestic violence shelter can provide you with information and counseling about your legal rights.