Families and Domestic Violence

Module Sections:

Effects of Domestic Violence on Women

When considering the effects of domestic violence on women, it is important to examine the common forms of abuse. These include physical, sexual, emotional, and psychological abuse. Some research also includes stalking behavior as a form of intimate partner violence.

Physical assault in a relationship is rarely a one-time event and, therefore, is an ongoing trauma for the victim. It is important for clinicians to understand that when the physical violence is no longer present, the victim may continue to experience emotional abuse or trauma.

The second form of intimate partner violence is sexual violence and abuse involving nonconsenting sexual encounters. Victims may report feeling pressured or coerced into sexual activity with the partner. It is also important for the clinician to be aware that when sexual violence is present in a relationship, spousal rape will be ongoing and the victim is often retraumatized.

The effects of domestic violence on women are far-reaching into all aspects of life. Some effects include, but are not limited to:

Physical Effects: Physical injury, death, dehydration, eating disorders, poverty, malnutrition, sexual dysfunction, chronic pain, self-injury, suicide attempts.

Mental/Emotional Effects: Depression/mental disorders, panic attacks, anxiety, emotional “over-reactions” to stimuli. In addition common psychological effects of domestic violence include:

  • Fear and terror
  • Low self-esteem
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty with trust and intimacy
  • Sexual difficulties
  • Anxiety
  • Problems with memory
  • Cognitive confusion
  • Depression
  • Anger and irritability
  • Shame and embarrassment
  • Health concerns
  • Nightmares
  • Increased startle response and physiological arousal
  • Numbing and avoidance

 (Report of the American Psychological Association’s Presidential Task Force on Domestic Violence and the Family, 1996).

Riggs (1992) discusses the connection between the crime of domestic violence with other violent crimes against a person. Intimate partner violence is as psychologically traumatizing as assaults perpetrated on a victim by a stranger. It is important to understand that even one assault can result in psychological trauma for the victim. Repeated victimization will result in greater psychological impairment (Jordan, et. al. 2004).

Audio Companion: Families and Domestic Violence