Effects of Domestic Violence

In addition to the physical wounds that domestic abuse sometimes leaves, often just as severe are the effects that few see, and include PTSD, Depression, Dissociation, Anxiety and difficulty sleeping.

While DV affects people of all income levels, women with a household income of less than $50K face increased economic vulnerabilities that impact their ability to flee an abusive relationship. Undocumented and trafficked survivors often face significant legal and language barriers when seeking safety, and are at a heightened risk for abuse.

About Domestic Violence

Domestic violence (DV)—also called relationship abuse, intimate partner violence, or dating violence—is a pattern of coercive control within a relationship, especially an intimate relationship.

Power & Control

is about the impact of the behavior on the survivor, which is why abuse looks different in different relationships. Abusers figure out what works to make the survivor feel afraid, off balance, confused, stressed out, exhausted, or otherwise unable to assert themselves or say what they need. This often starts very slowly and builds over time.

The "power and control" wheel, depicting common strategies used by abusers against their victims

Domestic Violence Myths & Realities

MYTH: LGBTQ+ couples do not experience domestic violence.
REALITY: It happens at approximately the same rate as with heterosexual couples, but also happens within the context of the larger societal oppression of same-sex couples.

MYTH: Most domestic violence happens in poor communities and neighborhoods with high crime rates.
REALITY: People of all income levels experience domestic violence, and wealthier abusers often use their resources and social standing to silence survivors and exert control.

MYTH: If a victim of domestic violence really wanted to leave, they could just leave.
REALITY: When a survivor decides to leave an abusive relationship is the most dangerous time. Social, cultural, economic, religious, or legal barriers also keep survivors in abusive relationships.

MYTH: Physical violence is the primary kind of domestic violence.
REALITY: Although nearly half of all women and men in the United States have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime (48.4% and 48.8%, respectively), there are many other ways that domestic violence happens, including verbal, emotional, and economic abuse. These may occur together with or independently from physical violence.

MYTH: Once the violence has ended, survivors no longer experience its effects.
REALITY: Survivors of violence are more likely to report frequent headaches, chronic pain, difficulty sleeping, and poor physical and mental health. The long-term health impacts of abuse including cardiovascular disease and a weakened immune system are well-documented by the Adverse Childhood Experience Study (ACES).

MYTH: Once a survivor flees the abusive relationship, they are no longer at risk for further abuse.
REALITY: Survivors of violence are often stalked by former partners, well after the relationship has ended; in fact, contact during this period can be extremely risky—even deadly (Jackie Campbell Danger Assessment). Court-involved survivors often continue to be controlled, harassed, and have life-saving resources depleted by former partners. Children continue to be impacted by an abusive parent in custody and visitation agreements.

MYTH: A survivor can only get help and support if they experienced bodily harm.
REALITY: Survivors of any type of domestic violence are believed and supported by The Second Step. You do not have to experience physical or sexual violence in order to get support and increase your safety.

I think I might be in an abusive relationship

If you suspect you might be in an abusive relationship, contact an advocate to discuss your options and plan for your safety. Make a plan before you leave, if at all possible. Leaving an abusive relationship is a very dangerous time, with a higher-than-average risk of escalated violence.

  • If you are afraid for your immediate safety, CALL 911
  • If you are in Massachusetts and need shelter, call SAFELINK, the Massachusetts statewide 24/7 toll-free domestic violence hotline, at 1-877-785-2020 or (TTY) 877-521-2601
  • You can also search to find domestic violence programs in your area, or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE)
A young brunette woman with a serene expression, looking to the left
I think I know someone in an abusive relationship

Because isolation is both a tactic and consequence of abuse, it’s important that they know you are there for them, that you believe them, and that they are not alone. An advocate at The Second Step can help you find ways to support them without making their situation even more difficult.

It can be very scary when we suspect or know that someone we love or care about is in an abusive relationship. It is natural to want to rush in to help and support them the best we can. We may have challenging emotions ourselves including anger, fear, helplessness, sadness, and fatigue. Although we might want to, we cannot single-handedly extract our loved ones from abusive relationships. Here is what you can do to support them:

  • Validate their experience: Survivors of violence often feel isolated in their experience, and fear that people will not believe them if they reach out. Always believe and validate their experience without passing judgement, no matter where they may be in their process.
  • Respect their timeline: Leaving an abusive relationship is an extremely complicated and potentially dangerous activity. A survivor knows best their situation, and can work with a skilled advocate to craft a safety plan that matches their unique situation. The actions that survivors take (including staying) can often seem counter-intuitive to their loved ones. The best way to support your loved one is to offer them support and resources, so that they have them when they are ready to leave.
  • Take care of yourself: Supporting a loved one can be challenging and emotionally draining. In order to best be there for your loved one, be mindful to take care of yourself. Remember: you are best able to support your loved one with a kind, compassionate, and clear head when you exhibit good boundaries.

If you need help supporting your loved one, an advocate can provide you with emotional support and guide you to helpful resources such as Family and Friends’ Guide to Domestic Violence: How to Listen, Talk and Take Action When Someone You Care About is Being Abused.

If you’d like to speak with an advocate now, please contact The Second Step at 617-965-3999.

Helpful Links

Below are links to flyers and forms that are available for outside support. If there are other needed resources please contact an advocate at 617-965-2538.

CAN-DO has opened a VITA site to help Newton residents and surrounding communities by offering free tax returns. Please see flyers below for more information.

Safety Net develops and maintains educational resources, apps, and toolkits for survivors and professionals working with survivors focusing on understanding tech abuse and the strategic use of technology to increase and maintain safety and privacy.

Developed by Nikia Bodden, Director of Transitional Living programs in coordination with Piltch Associates, MassHousing, and Casa Myrna, this guide is designed for advocates working with survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault who are seeking assistance with locating and obtaining permanent affordable housing in Massachusetts. The intent of this guide is not to make you an expert on all the federal and state housing programs. Rather, it is to provide basic information on key affordable housing programs and on the application process for obtaining affordable housing.

Speak with an advocate today.

Call us at 617-965-2538

    Please let us know how to safely contact you.