Effects of Domestic Violence
last updated August 2013
The effects of violence on a victim's health are far-reaching and devastating. Women who are battered may suffer from a variety of medical problems, from depression to chronic pain; they may also be at an increased risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or unplanned pregnancies.[1] They may need to miss significant amounts of work due to medical problems.[2] Domestic violence may be fatal. Worldwide, the World Health Organization estimates that around 40% of all female murder victims are killed by an intimate partner.[3] Victims of domestic violence are more likely to commit suicide.[4] Domestic violence also contributes to other forms of violence against women; women who experience violence at home may be more willing to look for and accept an uncertain and potentially risky job abroad, placing them in danger of being trafficked. Research conducted by The Advocates for Human Rights in Moldova and Ukraine revealed that domestic violence may increase women's vulnerability to trafficking; women who experienced violence at home were more willing to look for and accept an uncertain and potentially risky job abroad.
At the same time, however, women do not experience domestic violence in identical ways. Women may be more or less vulnerable to particular kinds of abuse, and may experience difficulty in accessing legal remedies or obtaining protection from the abuse because of their ethnicity or economic status. Culture may also affect how and where women seek assistance, as well as how they experience and respond to assistance. Intervention and advocacy efforts must recognize and adapt to these differences.
Domestic violence also has significant consequences for children, family, friends, co-workers, and the community. Family and friends may themselves be targeted by the abuser in retaliation for helping a woman leave a violent relationship or find assistance. Children in homes where domestic violence occurs may be witnesses to abuse, may themselves be abused, and may suffer harm "incidental" to the domestic abuse. Understanding the effect of domestic violence on children, and particularly the correlation between spouse and child abuse, is a critical part of an effective community response to violence. Without this basis, programs designed to help children may have unintended and negative effects on battered women, and may not be effective in helping children deal with and recover from witnessing and experiencing abuse.
 


[1] Futures without Violence, The Facts on Health Care and Domestic Violence (2012), accessed August 14, 2013, http://www.futureswithoutviolence.org/userfiles/file/HealthCare/HealthCare.pdf.
[2] Futures without Violence, The Health Care Costs of Domestic and Sexual Violence (2011), accessed August 14, 2013, http://www.futureswithoutviolence.org/userfiles/file/HealthCare/Health_Care_Costs_of_Domestic_and_Sexual_Violence.pdf.
[3] World Health Organization, Global and Regional Estimates of Violence Against Women: Prevalence and Health Effects of Intimate Partner Violence and Non-Partner Sexual Violence 17 (2013), accessed August 1, 2013, http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/85239/1/9789241564625_eng.pdf.
[4] Futures without Violence, The Facts on Health Care and Domestic Violence (2012), accessed August 14, 2013, http://www.futureswithoutviolence.org/userfiles/file/HealthCare/HealthCare.pdf.