Trauma and Domestic Violence

401584-black-and-white-grainy-picture-of-crying-womanIt never ceases to amaze me how much farther any blog posts on domestic violence seem to go than any other posts.  They get shared far and wide, in some cases across numerous countries.  While it is a little disheartening to think there are so many people who need this information, I’m really pleased that it is simply getting out there!

It’s no wonder really; did you know that over half the women in Canada have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since their teen years?  Or did you know that domestic violence and sexual assault is estimated to cost the country (Canada) 9 billion dollars per year?  That is so mind-boggling.  It’s not a definitive figure but the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives tried to tally up the costs and came up with an estimated $334 per person per year.

Domestic violence is a leading cause of trauma for both adults and children.  Living with the physical violence, the intimidation, the threat and the terror has an impact.  This can impact your mind, your body, your health and your soul.  Being traumatized byslide_4 these experiences does not make you weak, it makes you ‘normal’.  Anyone that is exposed to domestic violence can experience shifts in their physical wellness, in their thinking and how they view the world and how they process information.  It’s very individual.  Even if two people seem to have gone through almost the exact same thing, the way they react and cope and the lasting impacts will likely be very different.  We go into our relationships with different skills and beliefs and internal coping mechanisms and we come out of them that way as well.

There are some commonalities though.  It is common for many domestic violence survivors to experience anxiety, depression and sometimes post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as they attempt to recover from the abuse.  Below are a list of common effects of domestic violence.  Please note that you may not experience any of these or you may experience all of them but whatever you experience is not necessarily ‘permanent’.

39265893-daydreamDissociation – I remember one lady telling me that when her husband was beating her she used to be out doing the dishes in her mind.  What she was describing was her way of “checking out” of reality in order to protect herself from the trauma and fear of what was happening.  Really, daydreaming is a form of dissociation.

Depression – It is not uncommon to go through phases of intense sadness, hopelessness, despair, unexplained crying, lack of appetite, feelings of apathy and / or loss of energy and interest in other things.  If these feelings persist, medical or mental health intervention is probably a good thing.

Physical challenges – The list can range from muscle tension, shaking, shortness of breath, chronic fatigue, headaches, changes in212 appetite, and so on.  Research is beginning to support the notion that trauma is sometimes felt in the body and as a result, we may experience physical or medical issues as a result of being traumatized.

PTSD – This might include flashbacks, nightmares, extreme anxiety, unwelcome and intrusive thoughts and images.  PTSD can be difficult to work through and often requires some assistance from a qualified mental health professional.


Regardless of the challenges a person might face as a result of domestic violence, with support, time and patience, many of them can be overcome.  Healing looks different for everyone but if you start from a sense of safety and forgiveness (for yourself), you will be well on your way to getting to where you want to be.



Categories: Dating Violence, Domestic Violence, Trauma, Victimization

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

2 replies

  1. I’d like to see the definition of domestic violence expanded to encompass verbal, emotional and psychological abuse. I know from experience that it results in complex PTSD because it actually warps the mind and leaves us without a belief in our own reality. The rest of the world disbelieves us too because there are no scars or bruises, and the perpetrators are so careful to cover their tracks with exceptional charm – displaying their abusive tactics only to the one/s closest to them. We have to recover from this induced mental confusion before we can continue on to healing our hearts and minds – and it takes a long, long time. I expect that when the neuroscience does catch up, it will be revealed that the effects of trauma on the brain are no different for cases of verbal, emotional and psychological trauma than they are for physical or sexual abuse/trauma.

    • Hi Miss Min. You will be interested in knowing that research has shown that a child living in an abusive home can experience changes to their neurological development as a result of being exposed to verbal and psychological abuse (witness to it, directly experience it). I know some definitions (ours and the ministry that funds us) incoporate verbal, emotional and psychological abuse into the definition because of the damage that it does and the role it all plays within a domestic violent relationship. Hopefully that will carry over to other ministries and sectors as well.

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