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Domestic violence can run through family tree

6/2/2014

This is the fourth in a series about domestic abuse.

This is the fourth in a series about domestic abuse.

Q: What are the effects of domestic violence on women and children?

A: The Women's Aid Federation of England enumerates several effects of domestic violence that also are true in the U.S.A. study in England (2002) documented 40 percent of homeless women were homeless from situations related to domestic violence. Injuries also account for the effects of domestic violence for many women.

Employment adversely is affected by domestic violence because of women missing work. The health care costs associated with violence are high. In addition to the physical injuries, women suffer from depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders and sexual dysfunction. They also might miscarry or have stillborn babies, as male abusers often abuse pregnant females. In both England and the U.S., women are killed by their partners and spouses more often than murdered by strangers.

Domestic violence can cause mental illness or exacerbate pre-existing disorders. In the information from the Child Welfare Information Gateway from the Office on Child Abuse and Neglect of the Children's Bureau, there is documentation of the most common behavioral and emotional responses to domestic violence. These effects on victims include withdrawal, denial or trivializing abuse, impulsivity or aggressiveness, helplessness, anger, anxiety, hypervigilance, disturbances in eating or sleeping, substance abuse, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

In the Joyful Heart Foundation (2014) article on the effects of domestic violence, there is a list of the common physical effects of domestic violence. These include chronic fatigue, muscular tension, shortness of breath, shakiness, problems eating or sleeping (also considered symptoms of emotional effects), disruptions or changes in menstrual cycles or fertility for women.

This same publication reiterated the signs of PTSD. They are flashbacks, severe anxiety, nightmares and obsessive thoughts about abuse. The mental health disorder PTSD is not the only impact on women's mental stability. Depression is the most frequently reported response to domestic violence.

A condition known as dissociation is not as well-known as PTSD or depression. This response is similar to daydreaming. However, if dissociation is ongoing and pervasive, it can impair a person's ability to concentrate or focus on reality. This response begins during the violent acts when victims use it to separate themselves from the adversity of the abuse.

In a publication titled "Futures Without Violence" (formerly the Family Violence Prevention Fund) (2008), the report documents the effects of domestic violence on children. Seven million children live in families experiencing severe partner violence. On a given day in 2007, there were 13,485 children living in homeless shelters.

In a Michigan study of low-income preschoolers, children living in domestic violent homes suffered symptoms of bed-wetting, nightmares, headaches, gastrointestinal problems, and were at greater risk for allergies and asthma.

Regarding long-term effects of violence, children from homes with domestic violence, as adults, evidence higher rates of tobacco use, substance abuse, cancer, heart disease, obesity, depression and unplanned pregnancies. Childhood physical abuse of children also increases the risk for females of victimization as adults.

In a publication from the prosecuting attorney in Clark County, Indiana, compiling data from various publications, none of the effects were long-term benefits. The prosecutor's office proposed a solution to end the effect of domestic violence on children that is virtually impossible to achieve. Children must learn non-violent methods of conflict resolution at an early age, circumstances that never will happen in homes with domestic violence.

Children might believe they are at fault for the violence. They also learn violence is acceptable. The children then might use violence against their peers in school or their siblings at home. In the majority of homes with domestic violence, child abuse also occurs.

Living with domestic violence predisposes children to be abusers, to be abused and to develop all kinds of emotional and physical disorders. As adults, these children manifest themselves in domestic violence, crime and mental health disorders. Boys who see fathers abuse women are more likely to do the same, and girls who see mothers abused are more likely to become victims in adulthood. Adding child abuse to domestic violence in families intensifies and multiplies the likelihood of dysfunctions in children.

Dysfunctions include using violence at school or in the community, attempting suicide, using drugs, committing crimes, committing sexual assault, using violence to enhance their self-esteem and reputations, and using abuse in their close relationships as adults. Some children try to be perfect by achieving in academics or sports. (The American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress, 2012)

Experiencing or witnessing domestic violence between parents or other caregivers is the strongest risk factor in transmitting violence from one generation to another. Boys are twice as likely to become violent toward their own partners or children. These facts are from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

The article also emphasizes only 20 percent of people who experience domestic violence obtain Protection from Abuse Orders annually. Approximately 50 percent of these orders were violated. More than two-thirds of restraining orders for rapists or stalkers were violated. These facts have real significance because of the increased vulnerability of children with so few safeguards.

* Next week's discussion will include various research study results.

Judy Caprez is associate professor of social work at Fort Hays State University. Send your questions in care of the department of sociology and social work.