Domestic violence can profoundly impact an individual, causing physical harm, emotional distress, social isolation, and a sense of helplessness.

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Domestic violence has a profound impact on individuals, causing not just physical harm but also emotional distress and social isolation.

The resulting physical, psychological, or sexual trauma can lead to various short- and long-term health issues.

Survivors often withdraw from social connections, including friends, family, and community activities, which can increase their vulnerability.

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Social isolation

Domestic violence (DV) often involves isolating someone from their social network, causing them to feel alone.

2020 research indicates that social isolation and a lack of support are linked to poorer health outcomes for survivors. On the other hand, social support can significantly improve mental health outcomes.

Difficulty forming friendships

The emotional and psychological toll of domestic violence often makes it challenging for survivors to trust or form new relationships. They may fear further harm or deal with feelings of low self-worth, leading to social withdrawal and increased isolation.

A 2016 study indicates that this difficulty in forming new relationships is more pronounced in females and individuals experiencing higher levels of depressive symptoms.

Loss of agency

Research suggests that intimate partner violence against women (IPVAW) often includes controlling behaviors by the perpetrator, such as managing finances and dictating daily activities.

This control can create feelings of helplessness and isolation, making it difficult for survivors to access support services.

Among those seeking help, 76%-99% report experiencing economic abuse.

Childhood social development

Children who witness domestic violence may experience social difficulties. They may have difficulty forming healthy relationships, experience social withdrawal, or exhibit behavior problems.

Research suggests that children who’ve experienced domestic violence do more poorly in school, with emotional abuse having the greatest negative impact.

Research also indicates that domestic violence can lead them feel less healthy and satisfied with life. Children are more likely to experience mental health issues.

Community ostracism

In some communities, domestic violence survivors may face ostracism, blame, or harsh judgment, deepening their isolation and feelings of shame. This can occur in settings with strong traditional beliefs about gender roles or family honor, or where seeking help is stigmatized.

Stigma theory, as proposed by Goffman in 1963 and elaborated by Link and Phelan in 2001, suggests that survivors may be seen as “tainted” by their experience. This can lead to social rejection and isolation.

Understanding these social dynamics can help inform interventions and support systems for victims to mitigate the negative effects of stigma and maintain their social connections.

Employment and professional relationships

Domestic violence can hinder a survivor’s work and career, leading to absenteeism, decreased productivity, or job loss.

According to a large 2015 survey, survivors of domestic violence often face difficulties with work performance due to:

  • distraction from factors, such as stress or abusive calls
  • feeling tired
  • experiencing headaches
  • symptoms of depression or anxiety
  • injury

In addition, more than half of the domestic violence survivors reported that they experienced violence, such as abusive text messages or threats from their abuser, at or near their workplace.

These effects can impact their social interactions at work and financial stability.

Domestic violence can have profound effects on physical health. Victims of domestic violence may experience a range of physical health issues, including:

  • Physical injuries: Survivors may get bruises, cuts, broken bones, and other injuries as a result of physical violence.
  • Chronic health problems: Long-term exposure to domestic violence can lead to chronic health conditions such as chronic pain, gastrointestinal disorders, cardiovascular conditions, and gynecological problems.
  • Reproductive health issues: Domestic violence can affect reproductive health, including an increased risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), unwanted pregnancies, and complications during pregnancy.
  • Substance misuse: Survivors of domestic violence may turn to alcohol or drugs as a way to cope with the trauma, leading to substance misuse issues.
  • Sleep disturbances: Survivors may experience difficulty sleeping, including insomnia or nightmares, due to the stress and anxiety caused by domestic violence.
  • Headaches and migraine: Stress and tension from domestic violence can contribute to frequent headaches or migraine.

Some common mental health effects of domestic violence include:

Research from 2022 suggests that survivors of intimate partner violence (IPV), especially in low- and middle-income countries, often feel intense guilt, shame, and self-blame. This is potentially because they’re socialized to prioritize relationship harmony and may blame themselves for the abuse.

This sense of failure in fulfilling societal expectations can lead to stigma, loss of personal dignity, and diminished self-esteem.

In a study of Syrian refugees, women who’ve experienced IPV felt particularly humiliated when their husbands argued with them or hit them in front of their children.

Children who witness DV can experience a range of negative effects, including:

  • Emotional and behavioral problems: Children may exhibit symptoms of anxiety, depression, aggression, or withdrawal.
  • Cognitive difficulties: Witnessing DV can impact a child’s ability to concentrate, learn, and remember information.
  • Social difficulties: Children may have trouble forming and maintaining relationships with peers due to feelings of fear, shame, or isolation.
  • Physical health issues: Witnessing DV can lead to physical health problems such as headaches, stomachaches, and sleep disturbances.
  • Long-term consequences: Children who witness DV are at a higher risk of developing mental health disorders, substance misuse issues, and engaging in violent behavior themselves later in life.

Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behavior used to gain power and control over another person. It causes physical and psychological harm and can isolate survivors from their support networks, making it harder for them to seek help and increasing their vulnerability.

If you’re dealing with domestic violence, it’s important to know that help is available. You can reach out to the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or visit for support and resources.

Local domestic violence shelters and advocacy organizations can also provide assistance and help with safety planning. Remember, you’re not alone, and there are people who are waiting to help you.