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July 28, 2012 / Man in the Mirror

Whispering out loud: the health effects of woman abuse

Source: “A Question of Health: A Trainer’s Manual for a Health Care Response to Woman Abuse,” a joint initiative of the Woman Abuse Council of Toronto, Springtide Resources and the Ontario Hospital Association

Abuse is the single major cause of injury among women. Is it more frequent than auto accidents, rapes and muggings combined.

40% of women first experience abuse from their intimate male partner during pregnancy. Pregnant women who have been abused in their intimate relationships are twice as likely to miscarry and 4 times as likely to have low birth weight infant.

Some of the physical health effects of abuse are obvious. Broken bones, bruises, burns, bite marks, and star and gunshot wounds are usually easy to recognize as results of physical violence.

But the long-term effects of abuse on health are not as obvious. Abused women experience high levels of stress over long periods of time. This can cause or aggravate health problems such as :

  • heart conditions
  • high blood pressure
  • reproductive problems
  • asthma
  • chronic pain
  • repeated headaches

If a woman finds that she can’t eat, can’t sleep or is constantly tired, that can also be because of abuse. 

85% of abused women experience negative emotional effects, such as:

  • anger
  • fear
  • loss of trust
  • low self esteem
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • shame
  • guilt

Among the women admitted to psychiatric hospitals or psychiatric units, half are victims of violence.

Being afraid all the time can have a severe effect on a person’s emotional health. People living in fear are often constantly tired, confused, and very anxious. 

Psychological effects can include:

  • lack of concentration and productivity
  • memory loss
  • a strong fear response
  • self-harming behaviour
  • suicidal thoughts and intent

Abused women (and their families and friends) often don’t see the connection between the physical and emotional health problems they experience and the abuse. They may actually suffer more abuse, because their abusers blame them for being too sick, or tired, or depressed to look after themselves and their families, hold down a job, and meet the demands of the abuser.

It is important for women to alert their health care providers to any situation in their lives that may contribute to making them physically or emotionally sick or to making an existing illness worse. The health care system has a key role to play in supporting abused women. Woman abuse is a health care issue.

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One Comment

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  1. Agatha Papageorge / Nov 4 2012 1:25 pm

    Headaches can be caused by stress and too much anxiety so always take some time to have a great rest. `

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