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Time Doesn't Heal All Wounds

The battle scars domestic violence leaves behind

  • July 10, 2015
  • By domesticshelters.org
Time Doesn't Heal All Wounds

When most relationships end, what’s done is done. Time heals all wounds, right? In some instances, maybe, but it’s far from true when we’re talking about intimate partner violence. Maria Garay, MSW, PhD, CEO of the Sojourner Center in Phoenix, one of the largest domestic violence shelters in the United States, helps us shed some light on the lasting effects of domestic violence.

Physical: Assault, which includes battering from domestic violence, is the most prevalent cause of violence-related injury to women (and only about 20% of injuries from domestic violence are reported).
Long-Term Effects: These injuries can manifest into arthritis and traumatic brain injuries, among other conditions. “Many of the women we see have experienced trauma to the head—[they’ve been] shoved against the wall or had objects thrown at them. We know that just one these episodes can cause damage, and this is repeated,” Garay says. She also notes that violence can increase with pregnancy, causing concern for poor weight gain, preterm labor, miscarriage, low birth weight and injury to or death of a fetus.

Psychological: Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. That saying may have worked in childhood, but it’s a far cry from reality in the world of domestic violence—60 percent of survivors report symptoms of depression. In the throes of abuse, a survivor usually experiences overwhelming feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, which have a profound effect on their emotional well-being.
Long-Term Effects: This type of abuse puts survivors at a much greater risk for asthma, irritable bowel syndrome, frequent headaches, chronic pain, sleep disorders and suicide attempts. There is also a high correlation between post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and domestic violence. Garay says that virtually every person who comes into the Sojourner Center displays some symptom of PTSD, which is characterized by flashbacks, intrusive imagery, nightmares, anxiety, emotional numbing, insomnia, hyper-vigilance and avoidance of traumatic triggers.

Social: One of the tactics abusers use is isolation, slowly building a wall between their partner and support system. Many limit who their partner sees, using jealousy as justification.
Long-Term Effects: This can lead to a permanent rift between the survivor and his or her friends and family. In some cases, churches may even abandon survivors due to a belief that separation or divorce is wrong—no matter the circumstance.

The Long-Term Effects on Children: Without healthy influences of non-violence, children who witness domestic violence are 50 times more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol later in life and 74 times more likely to commit a violent crime. Many children may also suffer from behavioral and emotional problems, such as stuttering, anxiety, sleep difficulties, excessive crying and school problems. Garay explains, “Younger children have less defense mechanisms and just want the violence to stop, whereas school-age children understand the dynamics and can become withdrawn, have trouble concentrating, difficulty with peer relationships and experience conflict at school. And adolescents sometimes end up running away.” Furthermore, most experts agree, and studies have shown, that boys who witness abuse are more likely to become abusive adults and girls are more likely to tolerate it. However, witnessing domestic violence as a child does not guarantee a life of violence. Intervention is a key factor in preventing the effects. Learn more here.

If you need help, call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE to talk to an advocate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.