Day 12: Domestic abuse impacts on women's mental and physical health

Posted on December 06, 2017 at 10:51 AM

Health impacts

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’s strength and resilience in the face of unimaginable abuse and fear, should not be underestimated. Yet, the impact of the abuse on the women we meet, cannot be minimised or downplayed.

Women experiencing domestic violence are controlled and treated as unequal human beings. They are put down to the extent that can erode their confidence in themselves or 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 2016 include:

  • Broken limbs, broken teeth, broken jaw, bruising to the face and body, head injuries and internal injuries sue to rape and sexual assault.
  • Being left with permanent scars and disfigurement.
  • Being hospitalised, losing consciousness due to strangulation.
  • Sexual health issues including lack of access to family planning, STI’s or experiencing an unplanned pregnancy due to rape.
  • Experiencing miscarriage as a result of assault.
  • Loss of job, loss of home, experiencing hardship as a lone parent.
  • Alcohol and substance misuse.
  • Post-traumatic stress, anxiety, suicidal ideation and attempted suicide
  • Feeling exhausted, isolated, depressed. Having low self-esteem and self-doubt as a result of the abuse

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: 16 Facts for 16 Days6th December 2017Day 12