The UN defines domestic violence as a pattern of assaultive and coercive behaviors including physical, sexual, verbal, social and psychological attacks, as well as economic coercion used by adults against their current or former intimate partners. The devastating effects of violence in the home on women are well documented especially physical and sexual violence.
However, domestic violence also affects men and worryingly the forgotten victims; children. According to figures gathered by various government and organizations, domestic violence particularly child abuse is on the increase. This is a very worrying trend considering the fact that the numbers have always been high to begin with.
The Impact Of Family Violence
Effect on Health
Domestic violence is causing worrying healthcare problems all over the world and this is reflected on the victims. By far the most concerning is the immediate and long-term trauma as a result of the abuse. The injuries that are sustained as a result of domestic violence have lasting effects. These include chronic neck and back pain, arthritis, migraines, eye problems, chronic pelvic pain and stomach ulcers.
Since it is virtually impossible to measure the extent of psychological trauma with absolute precision, we may never really know how deep this problem runs. A major contributor to this difficulty is the social stigma that surrounds the victims and inhibits them from disclosing their abuse. Nowhere is this more evident than in male reports. Abuse is rarely reported due to societal expectations and pressures on men.
Domestic violence also fuels a number of chronic health problems for instance depression, alcohol and substance abuse and limits the ability of victims to manage other chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes and cardiovascular illnesses. Additionally, the victims are at risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases like HIV/AIDS. A significant number of perpetrators will often have multiple partners outside the relationship.
It also affects pregnant women. Over 320,000 pregnant women are battered by their partners every year in America. As a result, these women are at a higher risk of suffering from pregnancy complications such as low weight gain, trimester bleeding, infections and anemia. Consequently, abused pregnant women exhibit higher rates of maternal depression, suicide attempts and drug abuse.
Now more than ever, we really need to stop domestic violence. According to a recent study, the costs of domestic violence exceed $5.8 billion each year. About $4 billion is used for direct medical and mental healthcare services.
Impact On The Labor Force
The work environment is not the immediate place that comes to peoples’ minds when domestic violence is mentioned. Victims suffer physical, emotional and psychological harm with effects that last for many years. It is therefore inevitable that these effects will be reflected in the workplace.
Abusers often hinder the victims’ ability to maintain meaningful employment. This happens through the abuser controlling the finances of the victim such that they cannot afford necessities to do their jobs. Other times they sabotage childcare arrangements or physically threaten or restrain the victims.
In some instances, the abuse is transferred directly to the workplace when perpetrator makes constant calls or even shows up and disrupts operations. There have been cases where the victim’s co-workers have been attacked. Most abusers will target the workplace in a bid to ensure the victim is always dependent on them financially (economic abuse).
Family violence can also result in worker tardiness, reduced productivity and constant absenteeism thus affecting businesses and companies. These developments led to the International Labor Organization recently issuing an official call to action about the issue of gender-based violence in the work environment.
Impact On Children
On a psychological level, children exposed to domestic violent bear the brunt of the problem. They are more likely to develop mental health problems such as anxiety, chronic depression and violence towards peers. More than half of the men who abuse their wives also abuse their children.
Younger children who are affected exhibit symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) such as nightmares and bed wetting. They are also more likely than their peers to develop allergies, asthma, ulcers and flu. Children suffer the most psychologically since their coping mechanisms have not yet developed.
What Needs To Be Done
Given the accounts herein and the disturbing data, it is our collective duty as human beings to show zero-tolerance towards domestic violence. The first step is ideally stopping the stigmatization of victims in order to see increased abuse reports. A recent study revealed that 70-81% of victims would like their healthcare providers to ask them about domestic violence. This shows that they are willing to come forward if the right channels and platforms are provided.
On a global level, respective law makers need to conduct revisions on the laws regarding domestic violence. It is sometimes very complex and a lot of aspects of this violence fall in legal grey areas. International pressure must be put on countries that are reluctant to drive reforms in this regard.
The most important actions however, will be those that take place on a local level. The first step would be for vast community outreach where awareness about this issue can be raised and safe interventions can be realized. Most of abuse cases go unreported due to lack of adequate social support systems.
Change will only be brought by going back to the drawing board. Through these social systems potential victims can be empowered and educated on how to tackle the abuse. This strategy would reach out to a larger number of people particularly in marginalized areas.
We also need to address recent developments in gender roles. This would target the root cause of the problem and not just treat the symptoms. Through community to community education, we can be able to clearly define gender roles and responsibilities in today’s world. This way we can prevent potential abusers from becoming abusers. We need a new non-biased approach to gender issues in order for all parties to exist in harmony since our current models are obviously not working.
We can definitely stop domestic violence or for now at least mitigate it to optimistic levels. It will not be an easy task, but a bold change in societal structures would be a step in the right direction.