Who is affected by domestic violence?
Domestic violence has far-reaching effects on the victim, both physically and mentally. It also has strong links with child abuse, and its cost to society as a whole is enormous.
Effects of domestic violence on the person being abused
Possible effects include:
- Physical injuries.
- Death, by suicide or homicide.
- Miscarriage during pregnancy, as well as premature labour and fetal distress in the infant.
- Unintended pregnancy.
- Lost opportunities - jobs, hobbies, children, friends, experiences. Lost relationships with family, friends or children.
- Low self-esteem.
- Anxiety or depression.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder.
- Substance abuse
- Poor health generally (women suffering domestic abuse often go to their GPs with vague symptoms for which there is no obvious cause).
- Increased risk of acquiring HIV.
There is a strong link between domestic violence and child abuse/neglect. The UK Department of Health says around 750,000 children a year experience domestic violence. In households where there is domestic violence, about three quarters of it is seen by children. About half of these children are abused themselves. Children in these families have a higher risk of being sexually abused.
Effects of domestic violence on children
Depending on their age some possible effects are:
- Physical injuries.
- Sexual abuse.
- Behavioural difficulties.
- Learning difficulties.
- Slow speech and language development.
- Not doing as well at school as they should.
- Not making friends.
- Drug and alcohol abuse.
- Loss of a parent.
- Change in their relationship with their mother.
- Insecurity - they don't feel safe in their own home.
- An increased risk of becoming the perpetrator of violence against an intimate partner in the future (by 3- to 4-fold).
What financial impact does domestic violence bring with it?
It is estimated that the cost of domestic violence in the UK is £3.6 billion a year. This is made up of:
- The cost of the role of the criminal justice system - police, courts, prisons.
- The cost to the NHS - the costs of treating physical injury and mental health problems including hospital care, GP appointments, prescriptions and ambulances.
- The cost of housing.
- The cost to social services.
- The cost to employers.
In the USA the cost has been estimated to be US$ 5.8 billion annually.
Further reading and references
Home Office: Policy. Violence against women and girls in the UK; GOV.UK, March 2013
Improving safety, Reducing harm: Children, young people and domestic violence; Dept of Health, November 2009 (archived content)
Multi-agency statutory guidance on female genital mutilation; HM Government (April 2016)
Protecting people promoting health. A public health approach to violence prevention in England; Dept of Health, October 2012
Domestic abuse, sexual assault and stalking - Chapter 4: Focus on violent crime and sexual offences, Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW); Office for National Statistics (ONS), February 2017
Feder G, Davies RA, Baird K, et al; Identification and Referral to Improve Safety (IRIS) of women experiencing domestic violence with a primary care training and support programme: a cluster randomised controlled trial. Lancet. 2011 Nov 19378(9805):1788-95. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(11)61179-3. Epub 2011 Oct 12.
Buller AM, Devries KM, Howard LM, et al; Associations between Intimate Partner Violence and Health among Men Who Have Sex with Men: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. PLoS Med. 2014 Mar 411(3):e1001609. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001609. eCollection 2014 Mar.
Domestic violence and abuse: how health services, social care and the organisations they work with can respond effectively; NICE Public Health Guidance (February 2014)
The World's Women 2015. Trends and Statistics. Violence against Women. Chapter 6; United Nations Statistics Division
Preventing intimate partner and sexual violence against women: taking action and generating evidence; World Health Organization, 2010
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