The effects of domestic abuse extend to the society and is not just something that affects the individual or family members involved. Children who witness violence in their homes are at a higher risk of developing problems with their behaviour as they get older, these problems include anger, anxiety and other mental health issues. 

 The scale of these problems are heightened when these children grow up and have their own families, causing a ripple effect of repercussions that weaken the structure of a family unit for generations to come. Misuse of drugs and alcohol, homelessness and financial difficulties are amongst some of the other problems that affect society. This guide aims to discuss the effects of domestic abuse in more detail.

Who does domestic violence and abuse affect?

Domestic abuse and violence can affect anybody and everyone, the victim, families, neighbours, colleagues, friends and the wider community. 

However, for victims, there is some contributing factors that would put some individuals at a higher risk of being abused than others this includes, age, financial situation, substance abuse, physical and mental health issues and history of previous abuse. Whilst domestic abuse can affect both men and women, it is more likely to be experienced by women. 

In domestic violence matters which involve families, children will experience or witness the abuse and will therefore be affected too.

How does domestic abuse and violence affect people who experience or witness it?

Domestic violence often takes place in the context of a family, where there are other adults and children in the home, witnessing the trauma as a child or adult can also have lasting consequences. 

These effects can be long lasting or even permanent and may include the following;

  • Fear, anxiety and panic attacks
  • Depression
  • Loneliness or isolation
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Lack of confidence and self-esteem
  • Experiencing difficulties in other relationships
  • Nightmares, trouble sleeping

Please note this list is not exhaustive, victims and witnesses will experience a range of emotional, psychological and physical problems that may cause difficulty in forming relationships and trust in others and more serious implications like self-harming thoughts. 

Each individual will respond differently to what has occurred.

What are the short-term effects of domestic abuse?

Short term physical effects of abuse may include minor injuries or serious conditions such as broken bones, bruises, or injuries to organs and other part of the body. The emotional effects may involve confusion, shock, shortness of breath and changes in sleeping and eating patterns. 

The effects will depend on various factors such as the severity of the abuse, the frequency of the incidents, the period of time, age of the victim or witnesses and the type of abuse.

What are the long-term effects of domestic abuse?

What are the long-term effects of domestic abuse?
The long term effects of domestic abuse can significantly impact a victim or witnesses life. 

The trauma of the abuse can change lives, this will of course depend on a number of factors as individuals will respond differently to each situation. Some of the long-term effects include the following;

  • Misuse of drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism
  • Chronic pain
  • Heart disease
  • Depression anxiety
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Reproductive issues in women
  • Mental health issues

Although domestic abuse can affect anyone, most cases involve women and children. The long term effects on women may involve physical abuse causing infertility, children witnessing or experiencing the abuse are also at risk of long-term physical or mental problems. 

Children may become violent in their future relationships as they will have learned from behaviour witnessed in their childhood.

What are the wider consequences of domestic abuse on society?

Many of the incidents will involve the police, hospitals, courts, doctors and other facilities resources and services needed by society, this means less time is allocated to deal with other issues that are equally important. Victims and witnesses of domestic abuse tend to suffer from long term physical and mental health problems making it difficult for them to fit in to society and may make them less productive. 

The effect of domestic abuse on employment and economy is also large as families involved in domestic abuse tend to struggle in workplaces. Children experiencing or witnessing abuse are at a high risk of growing up to continuing the cycle of violence putting the strain back into society. Substance abuse and crime are issues which affect the society too, alcohol and drug misuse can be used as a coping mechanism for families involved in domestic violence. The financial strain from the inability to work may lead to crime.

Is domestic violence a public health issue?

Domestic abuse has a range of serious physical and mental health consequences which can be long-term. As well as acute and chronic physical impacts there is links with self-harm and suicide. Children are adversely affected with health, development, relationships, behaviour and emotional well-being, significantly impacting their education and being able to reach their full potential. Women that have been victims of abuse are more likely to experience sexually transmitted diseases, unintended pregnancies and poor pregnancy outcomes.

How does it affect people at a community level?

Victims and witnesses of abuse can suffer from long term health issues affecting their ability to work and manage their finances. In some domestic violence cases, individuals are forced to leave home for their safety or by way of court orders. Consequences such as loss of employment and homelessness can have financial impacts on the community. 

People with no direct link with the victims can be put in a potentially harmful situation if the abuser shows up in public places. Substance abuse and crime are also consequences of abuse that affect people on a community level. One of the most crippling effects of domestic abuse is the dismantling of family bonds, causing difficulties in forming relationships and trust in others, weakening the community structure further.