Health Effects Associated with Victims of Domestic Violence

An In-Depth Look at the Physical Health Effects of Domestic Violence.

It may seem like a simple task to understand the physical health symptoms that victims of domestic violence are left with. However, this is anything by true. While it is easy to see the bruises or wounds left on victims of physical abuse, these wounds often heal rather quickly in comparison to some of the other life-long health ramifications that victims face down the road. The physical health effects of domestic violence go far beyond the battering and the beatings (The Advocates for Human Rights).


Physical Health Effects

Victims of domestic violence are often left with life-long physical health syndromes. One problem that is particularly prominent is the permanent effects of battering injuries; such as injuries to the head, neck, teeth, mouth, or jaw. Battering effects may even go so far as to cause Traumatic Brain Injury; actual brain damage that can have debilitating effects on “all aspects of our lives, including our personality” (Traumatic Brain Injury.Com). Victims may also experience chronic digestive problems such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or chronic pain disorders such as Fibromyalgia; a syndrome associated with chronic and bone, soft tissue and muscle sensitivity.  Other victims suffer less serious musculoskeletal conditions; such as backaches and joint problems. Hypertension and its associated complications such as strokes and heart attacks are common among victims, as is smoking which may end up causing lung cancer, emphysema, or heart disease. Finally, survivors of domestic violence often develop eating disorders which may lead to heart and digestive system damage (VCU Institute for Women’s Health).

Mental Health Effects

The health effects felt by victims of domestic abuse go far beyond the physical.  Survivors of abuse regularly experience Anxiety, sleep problems, poor self-esteem, and eating disorders. Depression is also rampant in domestic violence victims. Unfortunately, it is commonplace for a victim’s depression to become so severe that suicidal thoughts and attempts are present as well. In fact, victims of domestic abuse are 12 times more likely attempt suicide than non-victims (UNICEF). The psychological wounds suffered by Victims of abuse may end up being so severe that they develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD is a serious and long-lasting anxiety disorder that develops from the victim’s single or repeated experience of the trauma associated with being abused (VCU Institute for Women’ Health).


Forced Sex Health Effects

Domestic violence victims usually experience at least one forced sex act during their abuse. Forced sex can happen with either a stranger or the victim’s own partner. This can have devastating effects on the body. Sexually transmitted disease, including HIV, is extremely common among victims. It was shown in 2010, that the risk of HIV is as much as two times greater for victims of domestic abuse (The Advocates for Human Rights). Chronic pelvic pain and an in increased risk for Pelvic Inflammatory Disease may also be present; as well as vaginal and anal tearing and Urinary Tract Infections. Finally forced sex may end up causing unintended pregnancies. While these pregnancies have implications for both men and women, they habitually have particularly dramatic consequences for female victims (VCU Institute for Women’s Health).


Pregnancy and Reproductive Effects

Women who are pregnant from abuse often have delayed, if any, health screening throughout their pregnancies. This is only complicated by the fact that studies have shown that victims of abuse often experience more complications during their pregnancies since the abuse often continues while they are in a more vulnerable state. Just a few of these complications include; STD infections, kidney infections, vaginal or cervical infections, and bleeding throughout the pregnancy (The Advocates for Human Rights).  In fact, “[i]ntimate partner abuse during pregnancy may be a more significant risk factor for pregnancy complications than other conditions for which pregnant women are routinely screened, such as hypertension and diabetes” (PATH).


When these health problems are considered together, it is no surprise that some victims end up paying the ultimate price for their abuse; death. This is especially true for female victims. “[W]omen are both intentionally murdered by their partners and lose their life as a result of injuries inflicted by them” (The Advocates for Human Rights). It is easy to see how this comes about when we look all the life-long health implications that victims must deal with. The sad fact is, the problems listed above are truly only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the health ramifications of domestic abuse.