The Impact of Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is the systematic use of coercion and control demonstrated through a series of patterned abusive behaviors by one intimate partner against another. According to the 2020 Tennessee Crime Annual Report published by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation there were 2,752 reported victims of domestic violence in Sumner, Wilson, and Robertson counties (TBI, 2020) Given that the majority of instances of domestic violence are not reported to the authorities coupled with the pandemic leading to increased barriers to victims/survivors accessing help, it can be assumed that the actual number of victims is likely greater.

Domestic violence correlates with many long-lasting impacts both on the individual and relational levels as well as on the whole of society. Impacts on individuals can be seen in survivors experience of injury and psychological trauma that may result in physical and mental health problems, including anxiety, depression, suicide and substance abuse. Chronic exposure to trauma leads to actual changes on a neurobiological level. These changes can be seen not only in observable behavioral responses of victims/survivors to stressors, but in the physical structure of the brain itself.

Domestic violence breaks down a victim’s/survivor’s support system and sometimes leads to fractured relationships between parents and children. Abuser tactics often intentionally undermine parent and child relationships as well as their relationships with others. Often witnessing violence causes secondary trauma for the children and family members impacted which adds additional barriers to the repairing of damaged relationships. The broad impact of domestic violence on families may lead to a cycle of cross-generational violence. Men are more likely to use violence towards their partner and women are more likely to stay with a partner who uses violence if they witnessed violence at home as a child. This cycle has created what is nothing short of a public health epidemic with vast impacts on communities.

The medical community treats millions of intimate partner rapes and physical assaults annually. Of the intimate partner rapes and physical assaults perpetrated against women annually approximately half will result in an injury to the victim/survivor and half of these injuries will result in some type of medical treatment to the victim. Often victims/survivors receive multiple forms of care and multiple treatments.