Domestic Violence and PTSD
When someone you love harms you, or a fight at home escalates into violence, you will naturally experience a range of emotions and consequences. Domestic violence isolates, devastates and deeply impacts families and individuals every day, and is a real problem in the United States and across the world.
The typical stereotype of domestic violence is that of a weak or wounded woman and a strong but violent man. This stereotype can be incredibly misleading. The truth is that violence at home impacts incredibly strong women, educated women, career women and also men. Violence impacts traditional marriages, same-sex couples, young and old, rich and poor, and every race and culture in the world.
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence released the following Domestic Violence Statistics:
- One in every four women experience domestic violence at some point in their lives
- Every year, about 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by their partners
- 85% of domestic violence victims are women and 15% are men
- Most cases of domestic violence are never reported to police
- It is estimated that somewhere between 30 to 60% of abusers also abuse children in the household
While victims of domestic violence may try to rationalize the abuse, experiencing long-term abuse and fear can lead to serious emotional, psychological and physical damage.
Shame and Domestic Violence
Women and men often feel foolish or shameful after they are victims of domestic violence. Many victims ask themselves how they did not see this unhealthy situation before it began. Abusers do not introduce themselves as abusers—the person who harmed you is the same person who you came to love during more peaceful times. This can be a very emotionally complicated situation, but fortunately there are counselors who specialize in this field that can help. Domestic violence trauma often goes untreated for a variety of reasons:
- It can be embarrassing to admit when domestic violence happens to you
- Violent or controlling partners often minimize the violence or blame the victim for the violence
- Domestic violence may involve a fight between both partners
- Domestic violence can happen during an affair, a hidden relationship, or even friendships
- Domestic violence isn’t just about physical abuse—it often begins with bullying, psychological abuse or a controlling or jealous situation
- Abusers often isolate their victims by making friendships uncomfortable or even volatile
- Victims and abusers may share children, property or other assets that make seeking help more challenging
If you are the victim of domestic violence, help is available if you can overcome your resistance to reaching out. There is no shame in being the victim of violence or in getting help from others.
Family Violence and Trauma
Domestic violence occurs in a pattern. There is a honeymoon phase, and then a period of tension before the violence or argument occurs. After the violent incident occurs, the abusive person often feels badly or apologizes. This leads to a new honeymoon phase, another time of tension, and usually, another incident of abuse. Frighteningly, over time, abuse usually becomes worse and more dangerous each time it occurs.
The cycle of domestic violence can happen slowly or quickly. Many people forgive their partner and take the partner back many times before leaving the relationship for good. Leaving an unhealthy relationship can be more complicated than it seems, and family members and friends often get very frustrated with the abused partner when he or she does not leave the unhealthy relationship.
If someone you love is in a domestic violence relationship, please don’t lose hope. Stay vigilant and look for the signs of post-traumatic stress disorder in yourself or your loved one. PTSD can lead to further violence and make the cycle of trauma worse. Some symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder related to domestic violence include:
- Frequent nightmares, flashbacks, or intrusive memories about the abuse or violence
- Physical illnesses such as headaches, stomach aches, ulcers or pains
- Avoidance of situations that bring back memories of the violence
- A tendency for domestic violence victims to become violent, erratic or irrational themselves
- Constantly feeling jumpy, on high alert, or constantly anxious or angry
- Drug or alcohol use to try and numb painful feelings
PTSD is a serious condition that requires professional help. The sooner you can get yourself or a loved one out of an abusive situation the sooner recovery can begin.
Getting Help for Domestic Violence and PTSD
You can break free from the pattern of violence and trauma that is affecting your life. If your trauma is more complicated because of drug or alcohol use, there is also specialized rehabilitation treatment available.
Domestic violence is a complicated situation, and you may wish to speak privately with someone who can provide information. Our counselors are available 24 hours a day on our toll-free helpline, and can connect you with information and resources. We can help you make a safety plan or find treatment for yourself or a loved one today.