Domestic Violence

Domestic violence can have a huge impact on the mental and physical health of those who experience it. Domestic violence involves any type of physical, sexual or emotional abuse within a relationship or family context.

It can happen to a person of any ethnicity, gender, culture, religion, age or socioeconomic group. The most common kind of abuse occurs in relationships and is often related to one partner exerting power over the other.

Being subjected to, under threat of, or witnessing domestic violence can be distressing. It can lead to mental health challenges for many - but not all - survivors.

If you or someone you know is at risk, safety is the first priority. Having the support of a trusted therapist during the process of planning how to leave can be of great benefit. Once you are safe, therapy can also help you to heal from the psychological effects of domestic violence.

Types of domestic violence

Different kinds of abuse can occur to people in intimate relationships, the elderly, or children. If you notice any of the following, you may be experiencing domestic violence:

Prevalence of domestic violence

The World Health Organization reports that 30% of women worldwide have experienced physical or sexual violence by a partner and that this is a major contributor to women’s mental and physical health problems. Women who have been subjected to domestic violence are more than twice as likely than other women to experience depression (1).

In the United States, around 35% of women and 28% of men have experienced sexual assault, physical violence, or stalking by a partner at some point during their lifetime (2). Of these people, nearly 30% of women and 10% of men reported at least one related impact, such as

Children often witness domestic violence. A survey found that around 6.5% of children are exposed to intimate partner violence and 26% are exposed to some kind of family violence (3). Children who are exposed to domestic violence are at greater risk of mental health problems (4).

Domestic violence and mental health

Survivors of domestic violence are at increased risk of mental health challenges. People react in different ways when faced with stressful and potentially dangerous situations, but some of the common mental health challenges encountered include:  

What to do if you are a survivor of domestic violence

If you have been subjected to domestic violence, remember that you are not alone and it is not your fault. There are many things you can do to look after yourself, whether you are still in the abusive situation, or have left and are starting the healing process.

Helplines:

Legal advice:

Therapy:

Self-care:

Talk to family and friends:

Support groups:

Leaving an abusive relationship

Leaving an abusive relationship can be incredibly challenging. Often, a lot of time and planning goes into leaving safely. You might consider a combination of the following:

Therapy types to consider

There are a number of different types of therapy that you could consider to help heal the psychological effects of domestic violence. Therapy types include:

Additional types of therapy to consider particularly if there is a child involved include:

What to look for in a therapist if you’ve experienced domestic violence

The best-fitting type of therapist will depend on individual factors, symptoms, your location and finances. When selecting a mental health professional, it can be helpful to consider the following factors:

Personal fit

As is the case when you are seeking therapy for any reason, it’s important to consider the potential for developing a strong working relationship with your therapist. The trusting working relationship with a therapist is called the therapeutic alliance, and it’s the number one indicator of treatment efficacy.

Those leaving an abusive relationship may feel unsafe and see the world as a more dangerous place. To be able to heal, it’s particularly important to look for a therapist with whom you feel you will be able to establish a trusting relationship.

Qualifications and experience

Look for a licensed mental health professional. This ensures that the therapist has undertaken the appropriate education and training. You might want to look for a therapist who specializes in working with people who have experienced domestic violence or trauma, for example.

Talk in advance

The best way to judge how you might feel about your prospective therapist is to ask for a preliminary phone call. Most therapists will be happy to oblige. This gives you the opportunity to ask about:

Try to speak to a few different therapists before making your mind up.

Zencare can help you to find a therapist who is a good personal fit. You can browse the videos of our vetted therapists and book a free phone call. This can help you to figure out whether you feel comfortable discussing difficult issues with the therapist, and gives a sense of what the therapist’s approach is like.

Find the best therapists near you

Find therapists on Zencare, below. Search by insurance, fees, and location; watch therapist introductory videos; and book free initial calls to find the right therapist for you!

New to therapy? Learn about how to find a therapist here.

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