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The Physical and Mental Effects of Domestic Violence on Its Victims

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The Physical and Mental Effects of

Domestic Violence on its Victims

AnneMarie Rivera


February 9, 2015

Angela J. Robles

The Physical and Mental Effects of

Domestic Violence on its Victims

     The "domestic" part doesn't matter—violence is violence. There was a time when victims of domestic violence could be silenced, and many people didn't pay attention to the seriousness of the situation. Their pleas fell on deaf ears as our society looked the other way. Nowadays that is not the case; we live in a time where victims of all ages, genders, and ethnicities have a much stronger voice. They no longer allow themselves to be denied of any help or awareness of their situation. Victims are now using their experiences to speak out to heal themselves while strengthening others. However, even with the resources available, and the cognizance brought upon to our society, many still do not understand the extent of what victims go through, and how much they actually suffer not just during, but long after getting away from their abuser. Victims suffer mental effects from domestic violence because not only does it cause the victim physical damage from the abuse, but it also causes post-traumatic stress, anxiety and even mental instability from watching the abuse take place.

     The physical effects of domestic violence and abuse are the most obvious danger and the most noticed on victims. The abuser will use excessive physical force against the victim in a manner to cause injury—ranging from minor to severe. The physical abuse includes pushing, choking, slapping, hitting, punching, rape, or any other kinds of bodily harm that causes feelings of pain. Other modes of physical harm to the victim include denying medical care when needed and depriving them of sleep or other necessary living functions. Sufferers can also experience long-term effects because of the violence; such as chronic headaches, joint and lower back pain, arthritis, and even heart disease, genital trauma and injuries, and impaired brain dysfunction for those who’ve experienced head injuries during disputes. According to Dr. Lynn Barkley Burnett, MD, a Medical Advisor for the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office in California, “every year in the United States, approximately 1.5 million rapes and physical assaults are perpetrated against women, and approximately 800,000 are committed against men.” (2009).

     The mental, emotional, and psychological effects of domestic violence, although not always obvious or immediately noticeable, can be just as severe as the physical. Some of these effects take time to be noticed, and are not noticed until after a victim decides they want to leave the relationship. They begin to experience overwhelming emotions regarding why they want to leave and how to do it. Some of the reasons victims leave include that the situation is becoming worse, the victims fear for their emotional wellbeing, and some even fear for their mental health and that of their families (Humphreys & Thiara, 2003). While in an abusive relationship, the victims more than likely experience verbal abuse and rage from their abuser, which can be anything from threats to being talked down to and belittled. It can cause the victim to question their self-worth, self-esteem, and even their sense of freedom. Some victims even take on to a life of substance abuse, whether illegal and/or prescription drugs or alcohol, to help mask the anger or pain associated with their situation; the substance abuse can further influence or add on to the physical and mental effects of the domestic violence. The abuse can lead to anxiety, post-traumatic stress syndrome, depression, and make the victim feel alone and helpless.

     One of the most common of these residual effects is post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD), which is defined as a mental health condition that is triggered by a terrifying event – either experiencing it or witnessing it (MayoClinic.Org, n.d.). Victims who fall into PTSD experience flashbacks and nightmares of their experiences, severe anxiety when in situations that may seem loud or violent, and have uncontrollable thoughts of the event. Any sudden movements or sounds can trigger an episode from the victim, from something as simple as a flinch or jump, to a scream or an unintentional attack on whoever is closest. There are even physical symptoms such as muscle tension, sweating, nausea, and rapid breathing. Sufferers of PTSD have difficulty adjusting and coping, but the sooner one can recognize the issue and get treatment, the better. Behavioral and family therapy and reaching out for support are two ways to begin the healing process. Speaking to a friend/family member, and in more severe cases a mental health professional, will help get your feelings out in the open. It allows one to face their problems and begin to decipher solutions. Some people suffering from PTSD are recommended to take medication to help with their symptoms, such as Prozac or Zoloft, which help with depression and anxiety.



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