Consequences of gender-based violence on the lives of women and children

28 Dec, 2023

Gender-based violence (GBV) is a prevalent and often covert issue that continues to afflict societies worldwide, leaving behind a trail of physical, emotional, and psychological scars in its wake. This, often silent epidemic disproportionately impacts women and children, creating a cycle of fear, trauma, and inequality that spans generations.

In our last blog, we answered some of the common questions surrounding gender-based violence, looking into its nature and those affected by it. In this blog, we investigate the consequences of gender-based violence on the lives of women and children.

Gender-based violence wreaks havoc on the physical and mental well-being of its victims. This violence can have long-lasting and negative health, social and economic effects, which can lead to cycles of violence and abuse within families and sometimes whole communities.

Gender-based Violence in Children
In Canada, each year an average of 800,000 children witness a woman being abused. Not only are these children at immediate risk of being physically injured themselves but witnessing domestic violence also has many proven long-term impacts.

Mental Health Issues
Although many assume kids don’t know what’s happening in the home or have been shielded from violence, research shows children do see and hear many domestic violence assaults. Those who witness violence or threats of violence between parents are more likely to display harmful drinking patterns later in life.

Children who witness 10 or more incidents of parental domestic violence before the age of 16 are at least twice as likely to attempt suicide and have twice the rate of psychiatric disorders as children from non-violent homes.

Difficulty Learning
Exposure to violence can affect children’s development and ability to learn, leading to a wide range of behavioural and emotional issues. Children who witness violence are also more likely to grow up to abuse others or face abuse themselves.

Potential impacts of exposure to GVB in childhood include:

  • Difficulty forming attachments
  • Premature birth
  • Low birth weight
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Phobias
  • Bullying
  • Asthma
  • Stomach aches
  • Post-traumatic stress
  • Mood swings
  • Frequent illness
  • Weight concerns
  • Substance use problems
  • Mental health conditions
  • Chronic pain, and pain conditions
  • Emotional trauma
  • Psychiatric disorders
  • Poor brain development
  • Suicide attempts

Inter-generational Impact:
One of the most heartbreaking impacts of GBV is its potential to span many generations. Children who witness or experience violence are more likely to perpetuate these patterns in adulthood, supporting a vicious cycle. They often grow up to be victims of violence or abusers themselves, because they receive the message that violence is an acceptable and normal way to resolve conflicts.

Research states that women with a history of physical violence have significantly higher incidences of depression and other mental health issues.

Experiencing violence in a relationship can lead to:

  • Alcohol consumption as a method of coping or self-medicating
  • Physical health problems
  • Chronic pain
  • Disability
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Sleep disorders
  • General reductions in life quality
  • Cardiac disease

Social Stigma and Isolation:
Both survivors and victims of gender-based violence often face societal stigma and isolation, adding to the challenges they are already dealing with. The fear of judgment and societal misconceptions can prevent victims from seeking help, supporting a culture of silence that allows violence to continue.

Education and Economic Empowerment:
For women and children trapped in the cycle of violence, the idea of education and economic independence can seem impossible. The fear of violence often forces women to abandon their education or careers, making them dependent on their abuser; trapping them in a cycle of poverty and limited opportunities.

This information is heavy. It’s infuriating and making a change may seem bleak, but breaking the silence around gender-based violence starts with raising human trafficking awareness. By fostering open conversations, challenging stereotypes, and dispelling myths, we can contribute to a cultural shift that rejects violence and empowers survivors to speak out.

GBV is an issue that demands and deserves our collective attention and action. By understanding the profound impact it has on women and children, we can work towards creating a world where online safety, equality, and respect are the foundation of every society. It’s time to break the silence, stand up against gender-based violence, and pave the way for a future where every woman and child can thrive without fear.