Domestic Violence

  • Medical Author:
    Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD

    Dr. Roxanne Dryden-Edwards is an adult, child, and adolescent psychiatrist. She is a former Chair of the Committee on Developmental Disabilities for the American Psychiatric Association, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and Medical Director of the National Center for Children and Families in Bethesda, Maryland.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

What is the history of domestic violence?

Domestic violence or violence that is expressed using intimate acts is unfortunately as timeless as history. Rape and other forms of sexual exploitation have historically been used to demoralize groups of people as in German concentration camps, on North America-bound slave ships, and in World War II Japanese brothels filled with "comfort women." Society-sanctioned forms of violence against women include infibulation (fastening or buckling together, as in binding of feet, or of the female genitalia in an effort to render less able to walk or render unable to have sexual intercourse, respectively) and female genital cutting, also known as female circumcision. Virtually all the world's societies view or have viewed women as less valuable than men. From assaults of women for attending school, "honor" killings of women for being rape victims or having premarital sex in some countries, to women being omitted from serving on juries in the United States until 1701 and prevented from voting until 1920, the view that women are somehow second-class citizens encourages mistreatment of women.

What are the effects of domestic abuse?

Domestic abuse has significant health and public-health consequences. Between 25%-50% of homeless families have lost their homes as a result of intimate partner violence. Such victimization is also associated with nearly $6 billion in health-care costs and lost work productivity per year. Victims of domestic violence are more likely to experience trouble raising their children and suffer family disruption as well. Although psychological abuse can be harder to define than overt physical abuse, it has been found to cause at least as much damage. Victims of intimate partner violence are vulnerable to developing depression, anxiety, and substance abuse disorders.

Partner abuse of pregnant women has been associated with preterm deliveries of low-birth-weight babies. Domestic partner abuse puts children of the couple at risk for lower intellectual functioning, being victims of child abuse as children, and of intimate partner violence as adults. This form of family violence also puts children at higher risk of having emotional problems and engaging in drug abuse. Given such risks, the presence of intimate partner abuse in a family should be an important consideration in child custody issues. Domestic violence results in homicide, as well. Victims who live in a household where weapons are present and drugs are used have a greater risk of being killed by their abuser.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/5/2016

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