The Effects of Domestic Violence on Women
The effects of domestic violence against women are far from being just physical. Abuse in relationships can have long-term emotional and psychological effects that can cause knock-on effects to almost every other area of their lives.
It is worth considering, however, that a total of 46% of all female murder victims in the UK were murdered by a partner or former partner in a single act of domestic violence. This means that women are more likely to be murdered by an abusive partner than by anyone else. They are also at risk from serious bodily harm that can have life-long effects. If it is allowed to escalate, violence against women can reach truly life-threatening levels.
Due to abuse, many women are forced to flee their homes every year, with nowhere else to go. It is estimated that 40% of all homeless women were made homeless due to issues related to domestic violence (Cramer & Carter, 2002). Sadly, women cannot stay in shelters forever, and it can be very difficult to obtain emergency accommodation. This is even more difficult if they are still married to their abusive partner at the time. Homelessness has a knock-on effect to other areas of women’s lives – it can be very difficult if not impossible to obtain and maintain employment while homeless, for example, and this can lead many women to turn to prostitution to survive. While living on the streets many women also begin using drugs. Domestic violence truly can ruin lives.
Due to the injuries or mental health issues that domestic abuse causes, many sufferers take time off work that can lead to them losing their jobs. It is estimated that 2% of domestic abuse victims lose their jobs as a direct result of the abuse. Many women also find that they are completely isolated as a result of the abuse they have suffered. Abusers often seek to cut their support networks purposely so that they will find it very difficult to leave the relationship – encouraging them not to see their friends, for example, or to give up their jobs. In the worst case scenarios, abusers will sometimes even turn the victim’s friends and family against him or her on purpose.
As a result of the abuse they have suffered and the effects it has had on their lives, a large majority of abuse victims suffer from clinical depression and anxiety. They are also more likely to suffer from eating disorders and sexual dysfunction.
Depression and anxiety can make it very difficult to go out and socialise with friends or maintain a job, worsening the situation and perpetuating the domestic violence cycle. Often a victim will find it very difficult to talk about what he or she has suffered, and as a result becomes alienated from friends and family. If they have suffered from severe, long-term abuse they are also more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
This means they will suffer from constant, chronic anxiety, difficulty sleeping, nightmares, flashbacks, unwanted memories and an exaggerated startle response.
The effects are truly endless. This is why it is important that victims of domestic abuse find a supportive network of other victims to engage with. Feeling that you are not alone can make a huge difference to your self-esteem and your ability to cope with what you have gone through. It’s also important that victims find a good counsellor or therapist with whom to work through their problems.
No one has to suffer alone, and just having someone who understands to talk to can be a great help. Counsellors are available on the NHS, and there are also a great number of private practices all over the UK.