How Are Family Members Affected by Intimate Partner Violence?

There are quite a few definitions on what a family should be, it can just be categorised as a unit consisting of parents and children living together in the same house. But a family is much more than that, it is a place where you should feel safe, have somebody you can rely on and share your problems with. There should be respect for each other, where you take responsibility seriously.

Unfortunately, for many instead of feeling secure, it is a place of fear. What affects one member of the family will affect all. Intimate Partner Violence also referred to as Domestic Violence, occurs when a spouse or partner uses violence against their partner, both of who are in an intimate relationship. There are a number of forms of violence and can include verbal, physical, social, sexual and even economical. There are also many reasons for Domestic Violence. But how are family members affected by Intimate partner violence?

“Survival mode is supposed to be a phase that helps save your life. Its not meant to be how you live.” Michele Rosenthal – Author

Intimate Partner Violence and children

Children also suffer from Intimate Partner Violence, they don’t have to experience physical violence, they are affected by being a witness.

Younger kids

Small children can start to exhibit behaviours such as bed-wetting, thumb sucking, having difficulty in sleeping. They will show signs of anxiety, which could develop into things like stuttering.

Older kids: They may feel that the situation is their problem, something they are doing to cause abuse. This has a tremendous effect on their self-esteem, they may withdraw from interacting with other kids. There could also be an increase in things like headaches or stomach aches, their grades may go down at school and they could be getting into trouble they otherwise would avoid.


Again, the teenager may be struggling at school, skipping classes or getting into fights. This aggressive behaviour could also lead them into trouble, causing them to have problems with the law and being arrested. They may have regular arguments with family members. At this stage, they could get into drugs and alcohol or experiment with unprotected sex. The most common effect for all is having to deal with depression and anxiety. Some may have to deal with other physical problems, such as obesity, heart disease or diabetes amongst other health issues.

The one thing that is most distressing, is the fact that these kids will grow up and most likely repeat the cycle of violence. Intervention is needed to stop this violent cycle, there are a number of places you can contact for help including the police.

Intimate Partner Violence – Spouse

Men can also be the victims of Intimate Partner Violence, but most cases are against women. The effects are numerous and include both psychological and physical manifestations.

Some effects are…


  • Depression
  • Anxiety and fear
  • Low self-esteem
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Avoiding social interaction
  • Emotionally unstable


  • Bruising and injuries ( physical violence)
  • Insomnia
  • Lack of appetite and weight loss
  • May lead to substance abuse

The first step towards freedom may be to call the police or other organisation so that you can remove yourself and kids from the toxic environment. There are safe places you can go to for help, shelters for abused women and children. Another way to get help would be to confide in somebody you trust. This could be another family member, friend, counsellor or your doctor.

Intimate Partner Violence – Outside family Members

In most cases, the abuser will try to isolate their partner, keeping them away from family and friends. This can be distressing for parents and friends of those in an abusive relationship. Intimate Partner violence, in most cases, is seen as a private matter. This is where family and community can help, a victim of abuse is much more likely to confide in a friend or family member than call the police. Family and friends could be a life-line to a victim of abuse, helping those who have survived. They may even be instrumental in helping their loved one leave their violent partner.

In order to help break this cycle of violence, we need to bring to light the whole Domestic violence issue, create awareness and accountability for those who perpetrate these crimes.

Leave a Comment