The Physical and Emotional Injuries of Domestic Violence

By Toby D. Goldsmith, M.D., and Maria Vera, Ph.D.
22 Nov 2000

All victims of domestic violence can be physically and emotionally injured. However, because of general strength differences between men and women, women are six to seven times more likely to receive serious physical injuries than are men.

Physical Injuries
There are some startling statistics about the frequency of physical injuries to women.

  • Domestic violence is the most frequent cause of injuries in women. The incidence of injuries from domestic violence is greater than the combined causes of all other injuries to women.

  • In 1991 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported that more than 1 million women seek treatment for injuries caused by battering each year.

  • One study reported that 28 percent of the battered women who came to one large city's emergency room required inpatient hospitalization for their injuries and 13 percent required major medical treatment. This study found that 40 percent of the sample's 218 women had received medical care for abuse injuries in the past.

Emotional Injuries
Emotional abuse does not produce cuts and bruises like physical abuse, so its scars are more difficult to recognize and treat. However, emotional abuse can leave deep scars on the psychological well-being of the victim. Also, emotional abuse often leads to substance abuse, low self-esteem, feelings of powerlessness, isolation, alienation, anxiety and depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Because women are so often the victims, more is known about their psychological injuries. Psychologist Lenore Walker studied female victims and described a "battered woman syndrome." She found that women who repeatedly experience physical, sexual and/or serious emotional abuse tend to be affected in common ways, and begin to show similar behavior. These battered women:

  • Minimize and deny the abuse.
  • Block the abuse incidents from their memory.
  • Have anxiety, fearfulness or panic because of constant stress.
  • Numb themselves to avoid dealing with the situation.
  • Have recurrent flashbacks of battering episodes.
  • Have specific fears and are continually watching out for signs of further harm.
Studies have documented that many battered women suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. The likelihood of a PTSD diagnosis and severe PTSD symptoms is correlated with more severe domestic violence experiences.

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 9 Oct 2013
    Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.

 

 

A man can get discouraged many times, but he is not a failure until he begins to blame somebody else and stops trying.
~ John Burroughs