The long term effects of domestic violence have not begun to be fully documented. Battered women suffer physical and mental problems as a result of domestic violence. Battering is the single major cause of injury to women, more significant than auto accidents, rapes, or muggings. In fact, the emotional and psychological abuse inflicted by batterers may be more costly to treat in the short-run than physical injury. Many of the physical injuries sustained by women seem to cause medical difficulties as women grow older. Arthritis, hypertension and heart disease have been identified by battered women as directly caused or aggravated by domestic violence suffered early in their adult lives.
Battered women lose their jobs because of absenteeism due to illness as a result of the violence. Absences occasioned by court appearances also jeopardize women’s livelihood. Battered women may have to move many times to avoid violence. Moving is costly and can interfere with continuity of employment. Battered women often lose family and friends as a result of the battering. First, the batterer isolates them from family and friends. Battered women then become embarrassed by the abuse inflicted upon them and withdraw from support persons to avoid embarrassment.
Some battered women are abandoned by their church when separating from abusers, since some religious doctrines prohibit separation or divorce regardless of the severity of abuse.
Many battered women have had to forgo financial security during divorce proceedings to avoid further abuse. As a result they are impoverished as they grow older. One-third of the children who witness the battering of their mothers demonstrate significant behavioral and/or emotional problems, including psychosomatic disorders, stuttering, anxiety and fears, sleep disruption, excessive crying and school problems.
Those boys who witness their fathers’ abuse of their mothers are more likely to inflict severe violence as adults. Data suggest that girls who witness maternal abuse may tolerate abuse as adults more than girls who do not. These negative effects maybe diminished if the child benefits from intervention by the law and domestic violence programs.
How does Domestic Violence Affect Children?
The tragic reality is that anytime a mother is abused by her partner, the children are also affected in both overt and subtle ways. What hurts the mother, hurts the children.
When a mother is abused, the children may feel guilty that they cannot protect her, or that they are the cause of the strife. They may themselves be abused, or neglected while the mother attempts to deal with the trauma. The rate of child abuse is 6-15 times higher in families where the mother is abused.
Children get hurt when they see their parents being yelled at, pushed, or hit. They may feel confusion, stress, fear, shame, or think that they caused the problem. Children grow up learning that it’s okay to hurt other people or let other people hurt them. A third of all children who see their mothers beaten develop emotional problems. Boys who see their fathers beat their mothers are ten times more likely to be abusive in their adult intimate relationships.
Children may exhibit emotional problems, cry excessively, or be withdrawn or shy. Children may have difficulty making friends or have fear of adults. Children may suffer from depression and excessive absences from school. Children may use violence for solving problems at school and home. Children may be at greater risk of being a runaway, being suicidal, or committing criminal acts as juveniles and adults. Children who are experiencing stress may show it indifferent ways, including difficulty in sleeping, bedwetting, over-achieving, behavior problems, withdrawing, stomach aches, headaches and/or diarrhea.
Children who grow up in violent homes have much higher risks of becoming drug or alcohol abusers or being involved in abusive relationships, as a batterer or a victim. Children do not have to be abused themselves in order to be impacted by violence in the home.
The only answer to this problem is to treat domestic violence for what it is – a crime. We must fight the societal values that reinforce the stereotypes that encourage men to act aggressively and use violence to solve problems; that women are weak and submissive and should accept male dominance as the norm. Children must be taught at an early age non-violent conflict resolution.
In homes where domestic violence occurs, fear, instability, and confusion replace the love, comfort, and nurturing children need. These children live in constant fear of physical harm from the person who is supposed to care for and protect them. They may feel guilt at loving the abuser or blame themselves for causing the violence. “Domestic Violence, Understanding a Community Problem,” National Woman Abuse Prevention Fund.
Based on interviews with children in battered women’s shelters, 85% of children had stayed twice with friends or relatives because of the violence, and 75% over the age of 15 had run away at least twice.
Boys who witness family violence are more likely to batter their female partners as adults, and girls who witness their mother’s abuse have a higher rate of being battered as adults. These common sense observations are fact, not myth.
When Violence Occurs
CALL the police. Show police any injuries. Keep medical records and take pictures of injuries. Ask for help in getting to a domestic abuse shelter. DOCUMENT THE ABUSE.