How Domestic Violence Impacts Society

Medically reviewed by Melissa Guarnaccia, LCSW
Updated May 13, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include suicide, substance use, or abuse which could be triggering to the reader.
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Domestic violence is a pressing concern that can affect more than direct survivors. Its effects echo throughout communities, impacting everyone from children to local businesses and even influencing future generations. 

It can be valuable to explore these wide-ranging consequences, from economic setbacks to the mental health crisis, while highlighting hopeful new mental health treatment developments. New approaches to recovery can offer survivors and their loved ones a safer, more convenient way to seek support and guidance.  

Are you or someone you love the target of domestic violence?

What is domestic violence?

Domestic violence, often disguised in secrecy and silence, is a form of abuse that can affect anyone, regardless of age, race, gender, sexuality, background, or socioeconomic status. At its core, it involves dynamics of power and control. Below are a few types of abuse: 

  • Physical abuse: Physical abuse involves actions like hitting, slapping, pushing, blocking, or any other act causing physical harm.
  • Emotional and psychological abuse: Emotional abuse may involve verbal attacks, humiliation, intimidation, and consistent criticism. It can erode one's self-worth and confidence over time.
  • Sexual abuse: Sexual abuse involves forcing or coercing a partner into sexual acts without consent. It's not limited to physical acts and can include derogatory name-calling or other forms of sexual humiliation.
  • Financial abuse: Financial abuse involves controlling any entry to financial resources, like not allowing a partner to work or withholding money, restricting their freedom and choices.
  • Digital abuse: Abusive partners may use technology, like texting or social media, to stalk, harass, or intimidate their partners.

How common is domestic violence?

Domestic violence is common. One-third of all women, one-quarter of all men, and over 10 million adults in the US experience domestic abuse annually

Historically, it has been stereotyped that domestic violence only happens in certain families or communities. However, abuse knows no boundaries. It can occur in any relationship, regardless of socioeconomic status, race, religion, or orientation. Some people may also believe it's easy for survivors to leave a person who acts in abusive ways, but factors like fear, financial dependence, or concern for children can make it complex.

Understanding domestic violence is often the first step in combating it. Recognizing its complicated nature can help individuals identify signs early and support those affected. 

The impacts of domestic violence on society

Domestic violence is often a silent epidemic characterized by a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship. As such, it is a personal issue and a societal concern with vast implications. This issue, deeply rooted in control and power dynamics, goes beyond personal boundaries, affecting the systems in power. Some of the broader impacts of domestic violence include the following.

Economic consequences

Domestic violence often affects a survivor's ability to make money. The aftermath of abuse, whether physical injuries or emotionally taxing court appointments, frequently compels them to take time off work.  This absenteeism doesn't cost money in the short term but also affects their long-term job prospects and career growth. From a business and public health perspective, an employee grappling with domestic violence might result in lower overall productivity. Their frequent absences can cause disruptions, and there's a cascading effect on teamwork and project timelines. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), 21% to 60% of individuals lose their jobs for reasons related to domestic violence.

The health implications of domestic violence aren't just physical. While emergency care for injuries is an evident cost, the longer-term mental health support survivors may use is another significant expense. Counseling, therapy, and medication for trauma-related conditions add up, leading to higher overall healthcare spending. Research has proven that domestic violence can cost survivors thousands of dollars over their lifetime, sometimes totaling over $100,000.

Intervening in domestic violence cases demands a consistent and well-designed legal framework. From policing to court proceedings, the expenses accumulate. Protective services, such as shelters and helplines, also require funding to offer survivors a haven and the resources to rebuild their lives. These public health costs can total billions of dollars for the public

Children's well-being

A home, ideally a child's safe space, can become a place of dread when domestic violence occurs. Kids exposed to toxic environments often confront confusion, anxiety, guilt, and fear. They might internalize these experiences, which can manifest as nightmares or unwarranted guilt. Children who witness domestic violence are also at a heightened risk of experiencing or perpetrating it themselves.

The distress from witnessing domestic abuse is often reflected in a child's academic performance. Distracted and emotionally drained, they might find it difficult to concentrate, leading to a drop in grades. Their participation in extracurricular activities can also dwindle, limiting their holistic growth.

Childhood exposure to domestic violence can skew a child's understanding of relationships and conflict. They might become withdrawn, aggressive, or develop substance use challenges. These behavioral challenges can strain their relationships with peers and teachers. 

Generational impacts

Children often learn from their surroundings. If they grow up in homes where violence is common, they might see it as the usual way to manage problems or disagreements.

When these children grow up, they might end up in relationships where they are the survivors or the ones causing harm. This pattern can continue with their children and so on. It becomes a cycle that's hard to break because it's what has been "learned" over generations.

Are you or someone you love the target of domestic violence?

Support options for survivors 

Reaching out for support is one way to cope with the effects of domestic violence. However, some survivors may hesitate to seek support due to fear of judgment or further harm. In these cases, online therapy through a platform like BetterHelp may be effective. 

Online therapy can be applied from anywhere. Survivors might be trapped in their environment, or they may not have easy means of approach to transportation. With online therapy, they can receive support from their home or any safe space using a phone or computer. Individuals can have sessions without being seen entering a therapist's office and can choose between phone, video, or live chat sessions. 

Recent research underscores online therapy's growing effectiveness and acceptance, especially concerning domestic violence. When engaged in consistent online therapy, survivors of domestic violence reported significant reductions in symptoms of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Another survey revealed that nearly half of participants preferred online therapy due to its convenience and flexibility. In addition, retention rates were higher in online sessions than in traditional settings for this demographic. This consistency ensures survivors receive continuous and sustained support, which can be vital. 

Takeaway

The reach of domestic violence extends beyond the immediate harm it inflicts. The repercussions are felt economically, socially, and across generations. However, the rise of online therapy signals a promising shift, providing survivors a lifeline and demonstrating society's evolving approach to mental health. 

As you navigate these challenges, staying informed, compassionate, and proactive in seeking solutions can be crucial. If you want to connect with a provider, consider contacting a therapist online or in your area for further support and guidance.

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