Impacts of Domestic Violence on Health

Domestic violence can have both immediate and long-term effects on survivors’ health. Abused women are likelier to experience chronic illness—including multiple chronic conditions—even years after abuse has occurred.  Nearly 1 in 5 adult women and about 1 in 7 adult men report having experienced severe physical violence from an intimate partner in their lifetimes. About 1 in 6 homicide victims are killed by an intimate partner. The CDC estimates that the lifetime medical cost of domestic violence to the U.S. population is $2.1 trillion. Health effects of domestic violence include:

Physical

  • Bruises, abrasions, lacerations, punctures, burns, bites
  • Broken bones, teeth or ear drums
  • Eye injuries, even leading to blindness
  • Organ damage
  • Digestive conditions
  • Asthma
  • Migraines and headaches
  • Chronic pain syndromes
  • Bladder and kidney infections
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Traumatic Brain Injury from strangulation or head injuries
  • Hair loss
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Fistula (tear between the vagina and bladder, rectum or both)
  • Sexually transmitted infections, HIV and other reproductive health issues
  • Death

Mental

  • Depression
  • Sleeping and eating disorders
  • Stress and anxiety disorders
  • PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder)
  • Self-harm and suicide attempts

Behavioral

  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Risky sexual behavior

Doctors and other trusted health care professionals play a critical role in helping survivors recognize abuse and receive appropriate treatment. To do this, they should routinely screen patients for domestic violence, offer non-judgmental support and affirmation, and help survivors access domestic violence services.New Beginnings can provide training on this topic for medical students and providers.

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