Essay on Psychological and Emotional Effects of Domestic Violence

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University of California, Santa Barbara
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Domestic violence is the intentional abuse by one member of a household against the other. It varies from verbal abuse such as insults, physical assault, sexual assault, intimidation, battering, or threatening behavior. Other forms of abuse of a lesser magnitude include stalking, expressing aggression towards someone and attempting to control the lifestyle of the other party. Domestic violence affects children, married or unmarried men, and women. According to the United States Department of Justice, an estimate of 1.3 million women and 835,000 men, report cases of physical abuse by a spouse each year. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), reports that women represent 85% of all the domestic violence victims. Averagely, one woman in every four women will be a victim of domestic violence in her lifetime. Other reports from the criminal department indicate that close to one-third of all female homicide victims were murdered by an intimate partner. All these statistics prove how prevalent cases of domestic violence are in the United States of America.

Domestic violence has immense negative effects on its victims. Victims experience psychological and emotional trauma, (Margolin andVickerman, 2007), besides the physical wounds inflicted on their bodies. According to the American Psychological Association, psychological trauma is an emotional response to a terrible occurrence that hinders an individual from functioning as he or she would under normal circumstances. Victims experiencing psychological and emotional impacts express withdrawal symptoms. This could be caused by feelings of embarrassment and shame that could be associated with the abuse. They tend to isolate themselves, as cited by Ireland and Smith (2009), to avoid instances that would lead to exposing their circumstances to their friends and colleagues. Grownups who are victims may even fail to report to work or engage in community activities. Children may absent themselves from school, or fail to participate in children activities.

Another major effect is the damage on the self-esteem of the victims. Physical abuse, intimidation, insults and criticisms, make the victims feel that they are unworthy of love and may question their self-worth, (Margolin and Vickerman, 2007). Men who suffer abuse feel that their ego has been greatly attacked and their esteem is likely to be more crushed in comparison with women and children who are considered weaker. Perpetrators of abuse always want to exert control over their subjects, robbing them of their right to make their judgments. This robs them of the sense of individuality and the right to freedom as they feel like slaves in their homes. Low self-esteem inhibits creativity and innovation.

Domestic violence causes fear in the lives of the victims. They experience a lack of a sense of security and safety and develop distrust in people. This is mostly so in cases of physical or sexual assault, perpetrated by people who are otherwise supposed to love and protect the victims. There is constant fear that the violence might heighten or get advanced. Many cases of physical abuse have ended up with the victims being hospitalized and others dying. Thus people are afraid of going home where they are supposed to feel safe. Children who are abused may run away from home and stay on the streets or find refuge with other families. Victims also keep these abuses to themselves as they fear that opening up will cause their perpetrators to retaliate. This eventually leads to a lifestyle of isolation for the victims.

Another psychological effect is the sense of anxiety, anger, and a tendency to turn into violence. The feeling of helplessness in an environment where an individual is being tortured emotionally will most often lead to anger. Some people will feel angry that they are unable to change the situation. Anxiety will mean that these people are always restless, sometimes figuring out how to end the abuse. Children who grow up witnessing their mother or father being abused will most likely turn out violent in future, (Ireland and Smith, 2009). There have been reported cases of teenagers who are in juvenile for killing an abusive father in a bid to protect their mother. Abused teenagers are more likely to get into an abusive relationship in future.

Stress and depression is a key emotional impact of abuse. Isolation, loss of self-worth, anger, constant fear and loss of control over ones life will amount to emotional distress and eventually depression. Stress and depression carry along a string of negative aspects such as sadness, fluctuation of appetite, loss or gain of weight, and general disinterest in life. Depressed victims will experience a sense of hopelessness and no value in their lives. Extreme cases of depression can lead to insanity and eventual death.

Prolonged domestic violence can lead to suicidal ideation and injurious behavior. Victims will turn into actions such alcoholism, abuse of drugs, injuring ones body, for instance, body cutting, or joining up crime gangs, (Ireland and Smith, 2009) in the case of children. All these acts are in an attempt to cover up for the reality of their situation. The shame, pain, and hopelessness caused by these abuses may lead to victims contemplating suicide to end the agony.

Domestic abuse can also cause spiritual conflicts within oneself. This is especially where the perpetrator uses the victims faith to exert control. For instance, a perpetrator may restrict the victim from practicing spiritual activities such as praying or reading religious books from their homes. There would also be limitations to attending religious functions or places of worship. The victims will likely feel unmotivated or experience inner conflicts, probably question the ability of their God to rescue them from their situations. They may feel empty and often reach a conclusion that reaching out is not an option that can bring solutions. Once an individuals spirituality is damaged, they can result in any action to save themselves, however gross it is.

Coping with the impacts of domestic violence can be incredibly overwhelming, especially because the victims ability to control the situation has been robbed by the perpetrator. However, although the effects are far reaching and go beyond the period of abuse into the entire lifetime of the victim, they can be overcome as discussed by Margolin and Vickerman, (2007). Many of the victims come out of abusive relationships through help from friends, family members or organizations set up for this course. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence is an organization in America working towards addressing domestic violence against women and children, and factors that perpetuate this violence.

The first step towards recovering from psychological and emotional effects of domestic abuse is opening up about the situation. Sharing with a relative, friend or a spiritual leader lessens the weight of the issue, as the saying goes, a problem shared is half solved. These people can offer ideas on how to bring the abuse to an end or even offer to speak to the abuser on behalf of the victim. Speaking out also helps avoid isolation which could lead to depression or accelerate suicidal attempts.

Alternatively, active participation in community activities or other social platforms could act as a remedy. Joining an online chat or engaging in community service will help keep away the feelings of sadness, hopelessness, self-pity or indulging in injurious behavior. It will also minimize the amount of time spent with the abuser and thus reducing chances of being inflicted with the abuses.

Finally, seeking therapeutic services would be of great help. Therapists assist victims of terrible events in overcoming post-traumatic stress disorders,( Margolin and Vickerman, 2007). A successful therapy will cause the victim to overcome his or her fears, deal with anger and anxiety resulting from the abuse, bring back hope to their lives and eventually have a positive view of the value of life. Survivors of abuse are able to go back to enjoying life the way they used in their time before the abuse.

In conclusion, psychological and emotional effects of domestic abuse are devastating and cause immense damage to the lives of the victims. These victims lead a distressed life and can eventually commit suicide. Children who are abused can penetrate this vice in future through carrying out acts of violence or engaging in abusive relationships, (Ireland and Smith, 2009). Fortunately, there is a possibility of overcoming these effects and going back to leading a normal, happy life.



Ireland, T. O., & Smith, C. A. (2009). Living in partner-violent families: Developmental links to antisocial behavior and relationship violence. Journal of youth and adolescence, 38(3), 323-339.

Margolin, G., & Vickerman, K. A. (2007). Posttraumatic stress in children and adolescents exposed to family violence: I. Overview and issues. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 38(6), 613.


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