It turns out that domestic violence against women doesn't just do short-term damage to a victim's health. It's also associated with diseases, traumas and illnesses that can last a lifetime.
Women who have fallen victim to domestic violence are 80 percent more likely to suffer a stroke, 70 percent more likely to have heart disease, 70 percent more likely to become heavy drinkers, and 60 percent more likely to become asthmatic than women who have not, according to a 2008 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"We've done quite a bit of work that has established a significant association between domestic violence and a range of long-term health ailments," said Matt Breiding, a behavioral scientist with the CDC. "We have not only documented both the long-term and near-term outcomes, but also found them to be significant."
The video showing professional football player Ray Rice punching his then-fiancee Janay Palmer has put a spotlight on domestic violence, which in the United States is still shamefully high. Some 31.5 percent of women have been a victim of it at some point in their life, according to recent estimates by the CDC. But, according to Brieding, it isn't all that surprising to those who have worked in the field. "These numbers might be surprising to the public, but they aren't that surprising to us," he said. "Similar numbers emerged 20 years ago, in the mid 1990s."
While women aren't the only victims of such abuses, they are significantly more likely than men to be victimized by current or former intimate partners—women account for 85 percent of spouse abuse victims and 86 percent of victims of abuse by a boyfriend or girlfriend, according to data compiled by Futures Without Violence. The CDC report estimated that each year, domestic violence results in 1,200 deaths and 2 million injuries among women and nearly 600,000 among men.
The long-term health consequences of domestic violence mean that long after a victim has tried to move on, the effect of the abuse can persist. Stroke, heart disease, and asthma are among the chronic ailments most highly correlated with incidents of domestic abuse, but they are merely a few of the many diseases and disabilities that might surface later in life, according to Brieding.