Women who have experienced domestic violence are at an increased risk of depression and suicide attempts; physical injuries; psychosomatic disorders; unwanted pregnancies; HIV and other STD's; being killed by a partner. (World Health Organisation, World Report on Violence and Health, 2002)
The effects of violence on a woman's health are severe. In addition to the immediate injuries from physical assault, women may suffer from chronic pain, gastrointestinal disorders, psychosomatic symptoms, and eating problems.
Emotional abuse can also have devastating health impacts. Domestic violence is associated with mental health problems such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and depression. Some studies indicate that women experiencing abuse are at heightened risk for suicide.
Reproductive health is also at a hugely increased risk for women experiencing abuse by their partner, often including sexual violence. Women who are abused suffer an increased risk of unplanned or early pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV and AIDS. See Trocaire’s infographic on women and girls’ vulnerability to HIV and AIDS here.
As trauma victims, they are also at an increased risk of substance abuse. According to a U.S. study, women who experience intimate partner abuse are three times more likely to have gynecological problems than non-abused women.
Domestic violence can be fatal. As previously discussed, 1 in every 2 female homicide victim in Ireland was killed by a current or former partner. Women are both intentionally murdered by their partners and lose their life as a result of injuries inflicted by them. Choking and strangulation, incredibly threatening and brutal tactics often used in abuse, can go undetected by police or health professionals because they rarely leaves physical marks. Injuries resulting from choking or strangulation can often be lethal; and can kill the victim within 36 hours.
Read more about the health effects of violence against women and girls on the WHO Fact Sheet here.
If you or someone you know are experiencing any of these forms of abuse, you can call the Women’s Aid National Freephone Helpline 1800 341 900 for emotional support and practical information.