Family violence is a serious issue that affects communities across the globe and people from all walks of life. It is a complex and multi-faceted phenomenon that doesn’t just affect the physical well-being of victims but also has implications for their mental health.
Children, in particular, can be deeply affected by exposure to family violence. However, the effects of this on anyone’s mental health can be severe and long-lasting. Those who experience family violence may suffer from depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Children who are exposed may also experience difficulty with attachment, poor self-esteem and difficulty trusting others.
In this blog post, we will discuss the impact of family violence on mental health, including tips for those who are experiencing it or suspect a loved one is.
What Is Family Violence?
Family violence, commonly known as domestic violence, can affect individuals of all ages, genders and backgrounds, and be caused by a range of factors. There can be a number of root causes of family violence, from learned behaviours, mental health issues, unequal power distributions and more. As a term, it encompasses a number of behaviours and actions that are used to exert power and control over a family member or intimate partner.
It’s important to note that different forms of family violence often occur together and can have a devastating impact on the physical and mental health of those affected. It’s also important to acknowledge that it is not limited to heterosexual relationships; it can occur in same-sex relationships as well.
What Are the Types of Family Violence?
Domestic violence refers to physical, emotional and psychological abuse that occurs within the home. This can include physical acts such as hitting, pushing or restraining, as well as emotional abuse such as bullying, intimidation and manipulation.
Another aspect is financial abuse, which refers to the use of money or resources to control and exploit a family member or partner. This can include withholding money, controlling access to bank accounts and preventing a partner from obtaining employment.
Sexual violence is also another form which can include any form of sexual abuse, including rape, sexual assault and coercion. It can also include sexual harassment, unwanted touching and forced sexual activity.
This is probably the most modern form of abuse whereby technology is used to control and stalk a partner or family member. Technological abuse can happen to people of all ages, but it is more common among younger generations who use technology and social media more regularly. Examples of technological abuse include hacking into a partner’s email and personal accounts; using tracking apps in a partner’s mobile phone to monitor their location, phone calls and messages; or monitoring interactions via social media.
How Does Family Violence Affect a Person Mentally?
There is no doubt that family violence, regardless of the form it takes, can have serious implications for a person’s mental health. Some may present more readily than others. However, you can expect to see victims to experience issues like:
Anxiety is a common mental health issue among those who have experienced family violence. This can include feelings of fear, worry and nervousness, and can make it difficult for individuals to function in their daily lives. They may be anxious about provoking the perpetrator’s violent behaviour or even how to keep themselves and their loved ones safe.
Depression is another mental health condition that is commonly linked to family violence. Those who have experienced this violence may develop feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and worthlessness with regard to their situation. When depression sets in, a person may have difficulty feeling pleasure or motivation in various other aspects of their daily life. This can make it very difficult to leave the negative situation.
3. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD is a severe form of anxiety that can develop after a traumatic event, such as family violence. Symptoms of PTSD can include flashbacks, nightmares and avoidance of certain situations or places that remind the person of the traumatic event. PTSD can continue to be an issue long after the family violence has stopped.
4. Substance Abuse
Although this may not be a mental health condition per se, drug and alcohol abuse are also common among individuals who have experienced family violence. Victims of family violence may use these substances as a way to cope with the emotional and psychological effects and ‘take the edge’ off their situation. However, this can lead to addiction and further harm to mental health.
5. Suicidal Ideation & Suicide
Finally, victims of family violence do report experiencing suicidal thoughts, and suicide itself is a very real risk for those experiencing abuse. Often those who experience family violence may feel like there is no hope or way out of their situation and may turn to suicide as a means of escape.
What Can You Do If It’s Your Mental Health That Is Suffering As a Result of Family Violence?
It is important to note that family violence can happen to anyone, regardless of age, gender, race or socioeconomic status. If you find yourself in a situation where you are experiencing family violence, being aware of the different avenues for support will be important when it comes to weathering the storm and finding a way to escape the situation.
Talk to a Mental Health Professional
It is important to seek help from a therapist or counsellor. Mental health professionals are well-positioned to provide support and guidance on how to cope with the trauma of family violence. They can also provide tools and strategies for managing symptoms of depression, anxiety and PTSD.
Talk to a Lawyer
Connecting with a reputable family lawyer can also be a valuable step in leaving the situation and seeking protection. A family lawyer can provide legal advice and guidance on how to obtain a restraining order or other forms of protection. They can also help navigate the legal system and assist with filing for divorce or custody arrangements if necessary.
Talk to Someone Your Trust
It is also a good idea to reach out to your own personal support network if you feel able to do so. If you feel more comfortable talking to someone anonymously and can’t access the help of a mental health professional, it is important to remember that there are many other resources available, including hotlines, shelters and support groups.
What Can You Do to Help a Loved One’s Mental Health If You Suspect They Are a Victim of Family Violence?
If you are worried someone you know and care about is experiencing family violence, there are some simple things you can do to help and support them.
Check In With Them
You can start by showing them that you care by asking if they are OK. Depending on your relationship with the person, you should tread carefully. It is wise to do this in a private setting away from any potentially abusive partners. Simply tell them you are concerned. However, don’t be discouraged if the person is defensive — it can be difficult for them to admit their situation. So, don’t force them to talk but allow them to know that support is available should they ever need it.
Be willing to listen without any judgement or criticism. Then help them understand that family violence is not their fault and reassure them that admitting that they’ve experienced abuse is a brave step in the right direction.
Find & Offer Resources
Do some research into the professional services and support resources available. Whether it is a local support group, a recommended therapist or a reputable family lawyer that has the knowledge to represent them legally, providing the person with practical resources is incredibly helpful.
You’ll find that people experiencing family violence often need practical assistance with seemingly straightforward tasks. If you are in a position to help them prepare a safety plan, offer them a place to stay, drive them to an appointment with their lawyer or take care of their children, you’ll be taking weight off their shoulders and offering invaluable emotional support during an incredibly stressful time.
Moving On From Family Violence
In short, family violence can have a severe impact on mental health, including children. If you or a loved one is experiencing family violence, it is important to reach out for help. Connecting with mental health professionals and support resources, such as helplines and shelters, will certainly assist when it comes to leaving an abusive situation and taking the first steps towards healing from the trauma.
When it comes to logistical matters such as pressing charges against an abusive partner, taking out a restraining order or filing for divorce, the support of a reputable lawyer that specialises in family law is essential. If you are looking for expert legal support in relation to any aspect of a family violence case, Duffy & Simon are here to help. At Duffy & Simon, we have an in-depth knowledge of all aspects of family law, including family violence cases and divorce. We understand the sensitive nature of dealing with a family violence situation and will do everything it takes to represent you and get you a fair result.
If you or someone you care about is experiencing a family violence situation, legal support can be key. So, contact Duffy & Simon today.