Effects of Violence Against Women

Violence against women can cause long-term physical and mental health problems. Violence and abuse affect not just the women involved but also their children, families, and communities. These effects include harm to an individual’s health, possibly long-term harm to children, and harm to communities such as lost work and homelessness.

What are the short-term physical effects of violence against women?

The short-term physical effects of violence can include minor injuries or serious conditions. They can include bruises, cuts, broken bones, or injuries to organs and other parts inside of your body. Some physical injuries are difficult or impossible to see without scans, x-rays, or other tests done by a doctor or nurse.

Short-term physical effects of sexual violence can include:

  • Vaginal bleeding or pelvic pain
  • Unwanted pregnancy
  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV
  • Trouble sleeping or nightmares

If you are pregnant, a physical injury can hurt you and the unborn child. This is also true in some cases of sexual assault.

If you are sexually assaulted by the person you live with, and you have children in the home, think about your children’s safety also. Violence in the home often includes child abuse. Many children who witness violence in the home are also victims of physical abuse.

What are the long-term physical effects of violence against women?

Violence against women, including sexual or physical violence, is linked to many long-term health problems. These can include:

  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Chronic pain
  • Digestive problems such as stomach ulcers
  • Heart problems
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Nightmares and problems sleeping
  • Migraine headaches
  • Sexual problems such as pain during sex
  • Stress
  • Problems with the immune system

Many women also have mental health problems after violence. To cope with the effects of the violence, some women start misusing alcohol or drugs or engage in risky behaviors, such as having unprotected sex. Sexual violence can also affect someone’s perception of their own bodies, leading to unhealthy eating patterns or eating disorders. If you are experiencing these problems, know that you are not alone. There are resources that can help you cope with these challenges.


Source: U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Office on Women’s Health: www.womenshealth.gov

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