Every week in Australia, a woman is murdered by someone she knows. And it’s usually an intimate male partner or ex-partner.
One in three women has suffered physical violence since the age of 15. In most cases (92% of the time) it’s by a man she knows.
Added to this, one-quarter of Australian women have suffered emotional abuse from a current or former partner. This occurs when a partner seeks to gain psychological and emotional control of the woman by demeaning her, controlling her actions, being verbally abusive and intimidating her.
Physical and emotional abuse is not only distressing, it’s psychologically damaging and increases women’s risk of developing a mental illness.
How violence increases the risk
Women who have experienced domestic violence or abuse are at a significantly higher risk of experiencing a range of mental health conditions including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and thoughts of suicide.
In situations of domestic violence, an abuser’s outburst is commonly followed by remorse and apology. But this “honeymoon” period usually ends in violence and abuse. This cycle means women are constantly anticipating the next outburst. Women in these situations feel they have little control, particularly when the abuse is happening in their own home
It’s no wonder living under such physical and emotional pressure impacts on mental and physical well-being.
One review of studies found the odds of experiencing PTSD was about seven times higher for women who had been victims of domestic violence than those who had not.
The likelihood of developing depression was 2.7 times greater, anxiety four times greater, and drug and alcohol misuse six times greater.
The likelihood of having suicidal thoughts was 3.5 times greater for women who had experienced domestic violence than those who hadn’t.
An Australian study of 1,257 female patients visiting GPs found women who were depressed were 5.8 times more likely to have experienced physical, emotional or sexual abuse than women who were not depressed.
Not only is domestic violence and abuse a risk factor for psychological disorders, but women who have pre-existing mental health issues are more likely to be targets for domestic abusers.
Women who are receiving mental health services for depression, anxiety and PTSD, for instance, are at higher risk of experiencing domestic violence compared to women who do not have these disorders.
– Rhian Parker, The Conversation
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