Intimate partner violence has an immense effect on a victim’s lifetime mental, physical, and financial health. This includes medical costs, lost productivity, criminal justice activities, and other costs, including victim property loss or damage. Government sources pay an estimated $1.3 trillion of the lifetime economic burden (Peterson et al., 2018).
Besides the acute physical and emotional toll, a wide range of chronic physical and mental health problems are associated with these forms of violence. The impact is felt well beyond an individual victim, with substantial economic costs across victims’ lifetimes due to medical care, lost work, and criminal justice activities (CDC, 2021, July 19).
6.1 Lifetime Health Costs
Few studies have quantified the per-victim cost of intimate partner violence or the victims’ long-term health costs. At a minimum, a victims may experience impaired health, lost productivity, and criminal justice costs. A seminal 1995 National Violence Against Women survey estimated the acute and short-term follow-up medical costs of partner violence for female victims (updated to 2014 dollars) as:
- $1,210 per rape
- $1,178 per physical assault
- $424 per stalking victimization (Peterson et al., 2018)
The lifetime cost of the effects of partner violence, however, are much higher. The estimated lifetime cost was $103,767 per female victim and $23,414 per male victim, or a population economic burden of nearly $3.6 trillion (2014 US$) over victims’ lifetimes, based on 43 million U.S. adults with victimization history (Peterson et al., 2018).
6.2 Mental Health Consequences
A person who is mentally healthy is able to cope with the normal stresses of life, work productively and fruitfully, and contribute to their community. Compared with physical health consequences, the mental consequences of partner violence are often less visible or tangible. A person may appear to be mentally healthy despite experiencing substantial mental health challenges that may go unnoticed and untreated (Su et al., 2021).
Mounting evidence suggests that domestic violence victims face considerable mental health challenges. About three-quarters of individuals seeking help from domestic violence support services have clinical posttraumatic stress symptoms, as well as depression and anxiety (Su et al., 2021).
Not surprisingly, victims of repeated partner violence experience more serious consequences than victims of one-time incidents. Women who experience repeated partner violence are more likely to display behaviors such as substance abuse, alcoholism, and suicide attempts. The more severe the violence, the stronger its relationship to negative health behaviors by victims.
Partner violence can lead to high-risk sexual behaviors such as unprotected sex, decreased condom use, early sexual initiation, choosing unhealthy or multiple sexual partners, or trading sex for food, money, or other items. Victims may also engage in unhealthy diet-related behaviors such as smoking, fasting, vomiting, overeating, and abuse of diet pills. They may also overuse health services.
Women who experience severe aggression by men, having their lives or their children's lives threatened or not being allowed to go to work or school are more likely to be unemployed and be receiving public assistance. They often have restricted access to services, strained relationships with healthcare providers and employers, and be isolated from social networks.