October offers time to reflect on cost of domestic violence

9:43 am | October 15, 2012

Domestic violence is a widespread societal problem with consequences reaching far beyond the family. It is conduct that has devastating effects for individual victims, their children and grandchildren, family members, friends and their communities. Domestic violence does not discriminate; it crosses all social, ethnic, racial and economic lines.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and in an effort to inform the community of the dynamics of domestic abuse, information compiled from The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and domesticviolencestatistics.org emphasize the impact made not only on victims, but society as a whole.

Domestic violence fails to get the headlines that are warranted by the size and severity of the problem. The issue affects everyone – if not directly then indirectly.

The effects of domestic violence are devastating to families. The emotional, verbal, and physical abuse is in itself debilitating. Along with that is the severe financial and economic burden that domestic violence imposes not only on victims, but the public sector, private businesses and society.

The cost of healthcare services consumed as a result of domestic violence (including emergency room and clinic visits, hospital stays, mental health services, medication and physical therapy) is one of the most significant cost components. It is estimated that the annual cost for healthcare services used to treat victims of domestic violence in the United States is at least $4.1 billion. Victims’ use of medical services is not limited to treatment of the immediate injuries caused by a single episode of violence. The adverse health consequences of domestic violence persist long after the abuse has ceased and may last a lifetime. Numerous studies have confirmed that domestic violence causes short-term and long-term physical and mental health problems including physical injuries, depression, stress and substance abuse. Furthermore, people who experience domestic violence are significantly more likely to attempt suicide than those not abused.

Reduced earnings and lower productivity are among the most prominent indirect costs of domestic violence. Studies have consistently shown that abused women earn substantially less than their non-abused peers. Domestic violence often causes victims to miss days of work due to injuries, mental health problems, and fear of the abuser locating the victim at her workplace. Abused women in the United States missed nearly 8 million days of paid work in a single year – the equivalent of losing more than 32,000 full-time jobs from the U.S. economy. Domestic violence also reduces victims’ productivity when at work as a result of lowered self-esteem, depression, elevated stress levels, poorer concentration, and other mental and physical health issues stemming from the violence. Absenteeism and decreased productivity in turn can lead to missed promotions and even job loss. A victim’s friends and family members may also miss work in order to assist the victim, multiplying the productivity costs to households and the larger economy. Reduced productivity is not confined to the workplace – it is also experienced in the home. Victims are less able to perform household chores, necessary childcare, and other domestic labor that is often critical to a family’s well-being, leading to neglect.

Domestic violence can also contribute to behavioral problems in children. Children raised in households where domestic violence occurred are more likely to have behavioral problems, drop out of school early, and experience juvenile delinquency. In addition, a child who witnesses domestic violence between his or her parents is more likely to view violence as an acceptable method of conflict resolution. Boys who witness domestic violence are more likely to become abusers and girls who witness domestic violence are more likely to become victims of domestic violence as adults. The transmission of domestic violence to the next generation further compounds the long-term costs to society.

Increased medical and mental health care, criminal justice intervention, and business losses are estimated in the billions of dollars each year in the United States. Each of us also pays an additional cost of loss of a sense of safety at home, in the workplace, in schools, and in our communities. It is ultimately the responsibility of all to help put an end to domestic violence. If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, please get help.

CHIPS Family Violence Shelter offers the following services free to victims of domestic violence and their children:

• Safe, confidential shelter.

• 24-hour crisis counseling, information and referral.

• Case planning and referral to appropriate support services.

• Criminal justice/legal advocacy to help victims through the legal process.

For more information, call 743-0022, Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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