Mental health writer C. J. Newton, MA refers to domestic violence as a "chronic abuse of power." An abuser doesn't just hit, kick, or batter his or her victim, but uses verbal abuse and fear to make the victim feel powerless.

Feeling Powerless 

The costs of this abuse go far beyond physical and emotional pain. Through fear and shame, the victim of domestic violence is isolated from friends and family-the support system we all need in hard times. Children are exposed to psychological trauma and dangerous lessons about relationship when they are exposed to domestic abuse. Victims struggle to hold down jobs and function in public while leading a double life. The costs are immense.

Broadly defined, domestic violence is physical, emotional, or sexual abuse where the people involved are adults who have or have had an intimate or familial relationship. This includes current or former spouses, domestic partners, parents and adult children, and adult siblings.

When domestic violence directly involves children, it is generally referred to as child abuse, despite the fact that children are certainly victimized just by living with domestic violence, whether or not they are the targets of abuse.

Women are roughly five times more likely than men to be the victims of domestic abuse, but anyone can be victimized. According to a report produced by the U.S. Department of Justice, in 1998 over one million violent crimes were committed against men and women by current or former spouses, girlfriends, or boyfriends.

Though the emotional costs of domestic violence are certainly high, they are impossible to put in concrete terms. Still, concrete measures of the effects of abuse on families and communities are striking in themselves.

Medical Costs of Domestic Violence

A recent report by the Centers for Disease Control estimated that health care costs associated with domestic violence and abuse were roughly $948 per incident for female victims $387 per incident for male victims.

These costs included bills for emergency care, inpatient hospital fees, and fees for mental health services.

In 2001 roughly 700,000 incidences of domestic violence were reported, and there is no way to know how many went unreported.

This study also fails to address mental health costs for children exposed to domestic violence.

The Workforce and Your Community

According to the American Institute on Domestic Violence, domestic abuse affects a victim's performance at work:

  • 96% of victims experience problems at work because of abuse
  • 74% of victims have been harassed by their abuser while at work
  • 56% of victims have been late to work because of abuse
  • 28% have left work early because of abuse
  • 54% missed work entirely because of abuse

Clearly, domestic violence is a serious issue with effects that range far beyond the immediate cost to the victim. Call our office at (425) 460-0550 to schedule a private consultation to learn how we can assist you.

Molly B. Kenny
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Divorce and Child Custody Attorney Serving Bellevue and Seattle Washington