PHYSICAL VIOLENCE and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Physical violence of any form can be highly distressing, particularly where the violent act was unexpected, the victim felt limited control in the situation, and the victim felt that their own, or someone else's, life was in danger.
Warning: While not overly explicit, reading over the following information may stir up strong feelings or memories in victims of domestic violence.
Sadly one of the most prevalent contexts for physical violence in our society is domestic violence. Partners in a domestic violence relationship can be subject to repeated acts of violence. Despite the severe physical and emotional impact of the assaults, the victim can feel unable to break free of a violent home. For a range of issues, such as cultural norms, fear for their children's safety, threats of further violence if they were to leave, strong feelings of sympathy or devotion to the perpetrator, emotional insecurity created by years of emotional and physical abuse,etc., can leave a person feeling trapped in such a relationship.
In some cases the threat of physical harm can be as significant, or more significant, a factor in the development of trauma reactions than the actual violent attacks.
Violent attacks can occur unpredictably in some domestic violence situations, particularly where the perpetrator uses drugs or alcohol. Victims will often describe “walking on eggshells”.
The feelings of being unable to control the situation, together with the sometimes frequent and repetitive nature of the domestic assaults or threats of assault, are two other reasons that domestic violence can lead to a particularly severe form of PTSD. This form of PTSD has sometimes been referred to as “Battered Wife Syndrome”. However this label, in our view, leads to unhelpful stereotyping.
The conflict between the reality of the violence on the one hand, and the fact that that perpetrator is often someone they loved or love dearly on the other hand, creates enormous emotional confusion. It is often as much dealing with issues arising from this tension (such as feelings of betrayal or rejection) as dealing with the trauma memories themselves, which becomes the focus of psychological therapy.
Women's health centres can often provide a great deal of support to women needing to leave an unsafe domestic situation.
For details how to find a therapist / psychologist near you with expertise in PTSD treatment click here .
For 24 hour telephone counselling in Australia call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For urgent assistance call your local mental health service, or attend your GP or your nearest hospital.