Day 8: Abuse increases physical and mental health risks

Posted on December 02, 2016 at 04:28 PM


Women and children experiencing domestic violence should never been portrayed as passive victims. Women’s Aid continues to be inspired by the women who use our services. Women, who are trying to live their lives, raise their children, study, work, and look after themselves and others, but who are doing so while suffering the most horrific abuse.

Women like us, like our sisters, our mothers, our friends and our workmates, whose strength and resilience in the face of unimaginable abuse and fear ultimate should not be underestimated. Yet, the impact of the abuse on the women we meet cannot be minimised or downplayed.

Women are controlled and treated as unequal human beings. They are put down to the extent that they don’t have any confidence in themselves or in their own abilities. Women are trapped with very few options to leave. They are beaten, hospitalised and can have ongoing and long-term physical health issues. Women can develop mental health issues and in some cases be over-reliant on alcohol and drugs. Women are raped, sexually abused and have no freedom to negotiate a safe and respectful sexual relationships. Women are isolated from supports and from family and friends.

The Health impacts of abuse as disclosed to Women’s Aid in 2015 include:

  • Being hospitalised, having broken limbs, jaws, cheekbones, brain and head injuries and internal injuries from sexual assault. Having bruising, black eyes, permanent scars and disfigurement.
  • Passing out whilst being choked.
  • Sexual health issues including STIs or experiencing an unplanned pregnancy following rape.
  • Experiencing miscarriage as a result of assault.
  • Alcohol and substance misuse.
  • Feeling traumatised, distressed and overwhelmed following assaults and hospitalisation.
  • Feeling exhausted, isolated, depressed, put down and having low self-esteem and self-doubt. Feeling insecure and alone.

The mental and physical health effects reported by women experiencing domestic violence are significant, immediate and long term, and wide-ranging. The ultimate cost can, in some extreme cases, be fatal.

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 STIs; 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 infections, including HIV and AIDS.

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.

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 24hr National Freephone Helpline 1800 341 900. We will listen, believe and support you.

Permanent link | Categories: Day 816 days16 facts for 16 days2nd December 2016