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Impact of Abuse

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Impact on Women

Abuse has a devastating impact on women. It can create wide ranging and long lasting physical, emotional and psychological scars. The effects of abuse can include:

  • Physical: broken bones, bites, burns, stab and firearm wounds, concussions, detached retina, sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy, bruising or tearing of the vagina or anus, chronic genital or pelvic pain, chronic vaginal or urinary tract infections, infertility.
  • Emotional & Psychological: low self esteem, feelings of worthlessness, suicidal thoughts, depression, addictions, inability to set appropriate boundaries, loss of concentration, eating disorders, dissociation, phobias, fear of intimacy, loss of trust, anxiety, shame, fearfulness.

For local resources and support, see Getting Help.

Impact on Children

As damaging as domestic violence is on women, it can be equally so for children who witness the abuse of their mothers. Risks for children include:

  • Increased risk of becoming victims of abuse themselves
    There is a common link between domestic violence and child abuse. Among victims of child abuse, more than 50% report domestic violence in the home. In addition, many children become victims of abuse in trying to prevent or stop violence towards their mothers. One study showed that in 15% of cases where children were present, they tried to prevent the abuse, 6% went for outside help, and 10% tried to protect the victim or make the violence stop.
  • Harm to children’s physical, emotional and social development
    This can include excessive irritability, sleep problems, emotional distress, fear of being alone, immature behaviour, problems with toilet training and language development, trouble with schoolwork, poor concentration and focus, psychosomatic illness, depression, suicidal tendencies, bed-wetting, juvenile pregnancy, and criminal behaviour.
  • Strong likelihood of continuing the cycle of abuse in the next generation
    The greatest predictor of children becoming either perpetrators or victims of domestic violence later in life is whether or not they grow up in a home where there is domestic violence. Children learn by example and unless the cycle of violence is broken, they are highly likely to repeat the pattern.

For a powerful illustration of the impact of abuse (and other parental behaviours) on children, view this video - produced by Australia’s National Association for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect - called, "Children See, Children Do".

This information is taken from UNICEF's From Behind Closed Doors: The Impact of Domestic Violence on Children. For more information and support visit www.caringdadsprogram.com.