Exploring The Effects Of Domestic Violence on Survivors, Partners, And Children

Updated February 26, 2024by Regain Editorial Team

Content/Trigger Warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include sexual assault & violence, which could potentially be triggering.

Are You Struggling To Manage The Effects Of Domestic Violence?

Domestic abuse can be a traumatizing experience for everyone involved. Survivors, children, and the perpetrators of abuse are often all impacted by the behavior, with short and long-term consequences observed in numerous studies. Read on to explore how domestic violence affects survivors, partners, and children and how therapy can help you heal from the damage to move forward with healthy, productive relationships. 

What Is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence (DV) is one form of abuse between people living in the same home. Children or roommates can experience domestic abuse in an unbalanced home dynamic, and incidents occur at the residence. By contrast, intimate partner violence (IPV) happens between two partners in a romantic relationship and can occur anywhere. Domestic abuse can happen to anyone, regardless of age, sex, gender, religion, education, or socioeconomic background. 

“Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner. Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, psychological, or technological actions or threats of actions, or other patterns of coercive behavior that influence another person within an intimate partner relationship. This includes any behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure, or wound someone.” — U.S. Department of Justice

Abuse Takes Many Forms

While many people think of bruises and broken bones when considering the topic of abuse, it can take many forms. Explore the different types of abuse that can fall under the umbrella of domestic violence. 

Physical

Using physical violence, or the threat of it, to gain and retain power over someone else who lives in the same home

Emotional

Non-physical behaviors intended to isolate, frighten, or control someone—often more subtle and complex to identify 

Sexual

Financial

Digital

Using technology and the internet to harass, stalk, bully, intimidate, or control 

Sexual Coercion

Coercing a partner into sexual activity, blurring the line between consent and obligation

Reproductive Coercion

Removing control over one partner’s reproductive system, such as taking or sabotaging birth control to cause pregnancy.

Recognizing Signs Of Abuse

  • Physical violence, such as pulling hair, slapping, kicking, punching, choking, biting, or otherwise causing you harm
  • Using or threatening to use weapons against you
  • Preventing you from leaving or contacting emergency services
  • Harming your children or pets to make you act as they want
  • Throwing things at you. 
  • Preventing you from seeking medical treatment
  • Acting jealous, refusing to trust you, or constantly accusing you of infidelity
  • Calling you names, insulting you, or criticizing you regularly
  • Isolating you from friends, family, and other support
  • Gaslighting you by questioning your experiences, trivializing your feelings, or denying their previous words or actions
  • Blaming you for their behavior
  • Forcing you into sexual activity

Understanding The Impact Domestic Violence Makes

While domestic violence can be a single incident, it is typically part of a pattern of behaviors over an extended period. As more time passes, the effects can compound and become more pronounced. Explore how abuse in the home affects survivors, perpetrators, and children.

On Survivors

Studies show that approximately 10 million men and women survive domestic violence annually—an average of 20 people per minute in the United States. In recent years, mental health professionals have urged a shift in the language from victim to survivor. It can help you to see yourself as a survivor, shifting the perspective to perseverance and growth. 

  • Physical Effects: In addition to any injuries they may sustain during domestic violence incidents, survivors often experience long-term symptoms of stress and anxiety, such as headaches, stomachaches, muscle tension, increased blood pressure, and a higher risk of cardiac problems. 
  • Psychological Effects: Living in a domestic violence situation can influence how survivors think and interact with people around them. They may develop post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, or dissociation (feeling detached from themselves).
  • Emotional Effects: Survivors may want the abuse to end but not be ready to let go of the relationship, feel embarrassed about their situation, worry that they cannot make it without their partner and feel trapped, or make excuses for the violent behavior to justify their actions. 

On Partners

Abuse can affect the person perpetrating it, too. They may feel guilty for hurting their partner and regret the harm they’ve caused to the relationship or home dynamic. 

  • They may not have intended to harm you and struggle to comprehend that an action's intention and impact don’t necessarily align. They must deal with the issues their behavior caused, regardless of intent. 
  • Perpetrators of abuse may have difficulties recognizing the problem and identifying the underlying causes. 
  • They may become stuck in a cycle of guilt that leaves them feeling undervalued, which could cause anger and resentment, often leading to further violence. 
  • Guilt
  • Loss of respect for themselves
  • Worry about their loss of control
  • Concern about the relationship ending

Are You Struggling To Manage The Effects Of Domestic Violence?

On Children

While children can often bounce back and adapt to changing situations, being exposed to domestic violence can make a lasting impact on young minds

  • Children may become fearful or anxious.
  • Preschool-age children may show regressive behaviors such as bedwetting, thumb-sucking, or increased whining and crying.
  • School-aged kids may blame themselves for abuse in the home, showing damage to their self-esteem, grades, and behavioral patterns.
  • Adolescents may react to domestic abuse by acting out negatively, such as fighting or skipping school, engaging in risky behavior, showing low self-esteem, or getting into trouble. 
  • More likely to enter abusive relationships or become abusers themselves
  • May believe that abusive behavior is how relationships work
  • Negatively impacting their emotional attachment styles

What Can You Do If Your Partner Is Abusive?

Staying in an abusive relationship and leaving both present exceptional challenges, emotionally and practically, and neither is an easy decision. Financial stress, a lack of support or resources, family or social expectations, and many other factors can influence whether someone stays or leaves an abusive relationship. 

Reach Out For Help

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE to learn more about your options. 

Ensure That You And Your Children Are Safe

Some domestic violence situations may leave you and your children unsafe. If you fear for your lives or physical safety, look for a domestic violence shelter that can provide a safe place to stay and resources to help you take the next step. 

Learn Practical Ways To Avoid Violence

If you choose to stay with your partner after an incident of domestic violence, finding practical ways to avoid future problems can be helpful. Suggest couples counseling to teach effective coping skills to help manage anger and stress, conflict resolution strategies to help you work through issues together, and anger management techniques to help your partner remain calm and express their feelings in a healthy way. 

How Therapy Can Help You Recover After Surviving Domestic Violence

Many people feel unsafe and need time to recover their equilibrium after experiencing domestic violence. Consider working with a licensed therapist online through a virtual relationship therapy platform like Regain. Therapy can help you examine your feelings about the abuse, find healthy ways to process and move past them, and develop healthy communication skills to manage conflicts better in the future. Parents or guardians seeking emotional support for their children following an incident of domestic abuse can contact TeenCounseling to get online therapy for kids from 12 to 19.

In the past decade, a massive surge of interest in versatile mental health treatment options has inspired numerous studies into the effectiveness of the various methods. Research shows that online and in-person therapy offer similar results, though virtual treatments often have lower costs and shorter wait times. Virtual couples therapy is also equally effective online and face-to-face, with both study groups showing reduced symptoms related to depression, stress, and anxiety and increased relationship satisfaction. Teletherapy platforms offer the added benefit of connection to a comprehensive network of licensed therapists, giving you a much higher chance of connecting with a provider who fits your personality and needs, and makes you feel comfortable. 

Takeaway 

Domestic violence can impact the people involved in many ways, whether they are the survivor being targeted, the abuser, or children forced to witness violent behavior. The information in this article offers insight into how domestic abuse can affect survivors, partners, and children and how therapy can help you work through your emotions in positive, practical ways. 

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