Domestic violence has long-lasting and detrimental effects on women who are battered. It affects a woman while she is in the relationship and when she leaves the relationship. It affects her physical, mental, and economic well-being.
In Judith Herman's book, Trauma and Recovery, she explains that the methods used to coerce hostages, political prisoners, survivors of concentration camps, and battered women are surprisingly similar. Batterers use a number of tactics beyond physical abuse to hold women in abusive relationships. According to Dr. Herman, the methods of establishing control over another person are grounded on the "systematic, repetitive infliction of psychological trauma." These methods of psychological control are intended to instill fear and a sense of helplessness and lower a woman's sense of self.1
According to Wilson:2
The effects of abuse on battered women include psychological characteristics that greatly resemble those of hostages. The implication here is that these characteristics are the result of being in a life-threatening relationship, not the reason for being in an abusive relationship.
Battering affects all types of women. However, there are some general characteristics that battered women develop in response to the abuse they suffer. Some of these are lowered self-esteem; accepting responsibility for the partner's actions; guilt; feelings of helplessness that affect how the women think, feel, and act; and denial, a survival strategy.
Battered women are often severely injured. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics 1994, 37% of female emergency department patients with violence-related injuries were injured by an intimate partner.
Battered women often become homeless because they have few or no resources to obtain housing and have no place to go. According to the Annual Report of the Rhode Island Emergency Food and Shelter Board (July 1, 1998 – June 30, 1999), domestic violence was the second most important reason mentioned by clients as the reason for seeking emergency shelter.
Research has also shown that 37% percent of women who experienced domestic violence reported that the abuse had an impact on their work in the form of lateness, missed work, job loss, and loss of career promotions.3
Children who see their parent battered or are battered themselves can be deeply traumatized. Children exposed to abuse are more insecure, more aggressive, and more prone to depression. They fear injury to their mother and themselves, they have difficulty in school, and they are exposed to violent role models. Children's ongoing contact with batterers after the parents have separated may continue to affect their development.4
1Trauma and Recovery, Judith Herman, Basic Books, 1992.
2When Violence Begins at Home, K.J. Wilson, HunterHouse Inc. Publishers, 1997.
3The Many Faces of Domestic Violence and Its Impact on the Workplace, EDK Associates for the Body Shop, New York, 1997.
4The Effects of Woman Abuse on Children: Psychological and Legal Authority, National Center on Women & Family Law, 1994.