Psychic Wounds, Physical Wounds, of Domestic Abuse Last a Lifetime

Everyone knows domestic abuse -- either verbal or physical -- is bad.  But did you know it affects the health of those who are abused  long-term?

From muscle and joint aches to memory loss, a new study has found that, in a survey of 1,000 women, almost half reported that they were survivors of domestic abuse, and of that 44 percent, 20 percent had chronic pain issues, according to Liz Neporent of

"There's evidence that the majority of the 3 million to 4 million women who report a domestic violence incident each year, according to the American Medical Association, have an exceptionally high rate of health problems," Neporent reports.

Domestic abuse victims also reported up to twice as many chronic conditions compared with those who said they were not abused, the survey found.

More than 80 percent of domestic abuse survivors, and nearly 90 percent of those who said they had also been sexually abused, reported such problems as low back pain, chronic headaches, arthritis and more, Neporent notes. "They also reported a higher than average incidence of depression, diabetes, asthma and digestive disease, as well as elevated rates of impaired brain, immune or endocrine system dysfunction."

The truly sad part -- and probably why many women do suffer from this pain for a lifetime --is that  women don't make the connection between their health and the abuse, the survey found. "Survey respondents were more likely to blame other things, such as smoking and alcohol for any of their health problems rather than the domestic abuse they had endured," according to Neporent.

Seems hard to believe that psychic wounds would not immediately be linked to physical wounds but we're not used to thinking of ourselves this way.  Though mind-body healing has been around for quite a while, many people don't really believe that what's in our minds can affect our bodies in a physical way.

Neporent points out that 75 percent of the women in the survey said no doctor had ever asked them about domestic violence during an exam.  It probably wouldn't be on the tip of the tongue of most doctors if they weren't seeing black and blue marks all over your body.  But doctors also shy away from these topics out of embarrassment or not wanting to get involved.  Funny.  When a healthcare provider suspects child abuse, she's mandated by law to report it.  Not so, for women.

And even when domestic violence was acknowledged, less than 20 percent of doctors provided resources or referrals, Neporent says.

It's not all the doctors' faults.  We must speak up, too, not be afraid to broach sensitive, personal topics with our doctors, even if they don't bring them up.  We mustn't be afraid of worrying what they will think about us.  If not us, then who?


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