Domestic violence doesn’t end with the abuse

CAMMIE BAGLEY Executive Director & News Editor

Depression, anxiety and thoughts of suicide are just a few of the traumatic effects that stem from experiencing domestic violence.

Domestic violence is more than just physical abuse. There are both physical and mental consequences for victims. When it comes to physical violence, the effects can be more obvious, such as victims having bruises, cuts or even broken bones. In some cases, the physical damage can be taken as far as death, especially when there is strangulation involved. Suzanne Dow, director of local advocacy organization Circle of Hope, said that when an abuser strangles their partner, the chance of homicide goes up immensely.

“Not every situation is deadly, but we assess each victim to determine if there is a potential for her being killed,” she said. “Strangulation is an act of violence that a lot of men use. They’re showing the victim how much control they do have. A woman whose been strangled in an incident, her chances of being killed increase by a lot because strangulation is already almost death.”

The health issues that stem from physical injuries often become chronic, long-term problems for those affected. In a 2013 survey conducted by Verizon Foundation and “More” magazine, it was found that 80 percent of women who had been victims of domestic violence experienced lower back pain, chronic headaches, arthritis, asthma and more as a result of the abuse they had endured.

Aside from the physical results of domestic violence, victims often experience mental health problems, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depression, according to Women’s Health website. All of these difficulties stem from the power and control that the abuser has exerted over the victim, leaving them feeling helpless.

According to national advocacy organization The Joyful Heart Foundation, experiencing domestic violence can seriously impact the way that one thinks and interacts with others. Due to PTSD, victims can have flashbacks to the abuse as well as nightmares and severe anxiety when thoughts of the abuse come to mind. They may also appear to be distant or not even present, which is known as dissociation. In these cases, the victim usually isn’t very social or outgoing.

The most common mental health issue that victims encounter is depression, according to the Joyful Heart Foundation. This could involve loss of energy, loss of interest in things the victim used to enjoy or even thoughts of suicide.

Another unexpected effect of domestic violence is what’s known as repeating the cycle. This is the repetition of abuse generation after generation. Many victims experience abuse in their childhood, according to Dow. This then teaches them that abuse is normal within a relationship and they fall into the pattern of being in unhealthy, abusive relationships of their own.

“Women who end up in an abusive relationship often experienced abuse before because what you believe is normal is what you follow,” she said. “They’ve learned that message over and over that abuse is OK.”

Because there are so many traumatic effects of domestic violence, advocacy organizations exist in order to assist victims through the healing process. They can offer counseling, financial aid and housing assistance. Dow said that in order for a victim to heal and avoid another abusive relationship in the future, they must learn how to recognize unhealthy relationship patterns.

For more information on how to find help for victims of domestic violence, visit