Trauma, Mental Health and Domestic Violence

Page Summary: 


More than 57 million people in the United States (age 18 and older) suffer from a mental illness. Over 50% of women who live with a mental illness have previously experienced some sort of trauma such as physical or sexual abuse (either during childhood or adulthood). Domestic violence can cause an adverse ripple effect on the emotional and psychological state of a survivor. Panic attacks, post traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, depression and anxiety are often ignited by domestic violence and/or other severe forms of abuse. Issues surrounding poor mental health are often ignored or go unaddressed by society. Coping with emotional and psychological traumas often becomes burdensome for survivors. Stabilizing basic resources can become strenuous and tedious. Persons living with mental illness are overrepresented in homelessness populations, prisons, and often experience economic injustices. Suicidal tendencies, substance abuse and psychotic episodes can all be sparked by violence and maltreatment. Individuals may simultaneously suffer from more than one mental illness. Children exposed to domestic violence are at risk for developmental delays, psychiatric disorders, school difficulties, aggressive behavior, and low self-esteem. While being exposed to a traumatic experience can trigger mental health problems, living with a severe mental illness is likely to increase the vulnerability of a person being abused. Although abuse can cause emotional scarring, the majority of victims do not develop serious mental health issues.

FCADV provides many resources to certified domestic violence centers for enhancing service provision to survivors living with mental health complexities. These resources include onsite and electronic training and technical assistance as well as educational materials. Please use this page to search for resources to support service provision in your center. 

Select one of the following links to explore this topic further.



1 in 4 adults suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder. (National Institute of Mental Health, 2009)

Research indicates:

  • 54% to 84% of battered women suffer from PTSD,
  • 63% to 77% of battered women experience depression, and
  • 38% to 75% experience anxiety.

Abuse rates are higher among homeless women with serious mental illnesses. A study with 99 episodically homeless women with serious mental illness, found that significant numbers had been physically (70%) or sexually (30.4%) abused by a partner. Rates of physical or sexual abuse in adulthood by any perpetrator were 87% and 76%, respectively (Goodman et al, 1995).

Between 3.3 million and 10 million children witness domestic violence annually (American Bar Association, 2009).

Across studies of US and Canadian women receiving services for domestic violence, rates of depression ranged from 17% to 72%, and rates of PTSD ranged from 33% to 88% (Warshaw & Barnes, 2003).


Current Research on Mental Health and Domestic Violence

  1. Community Violence in Context: Risk and Resilience in Children and Families (Aisenberg, Herrenkohl, 2008)
  2. Violence Between Therapy-Seeking Veterans and Their Partners (Teten, et al., 2009)
  3. Traumatic Stress Symptoms in Women Exposed to Community and Partner Violence (Brown, et al., 2005)
  4. Violence Against Women: Outcome Complexity and Implications for Assessment and Treatment (Briere, Jordan, 2004)
  5. Pathways Linking Intimate Partner Violence and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (Dutton, 2009)
  6. Intimate Partner Violence and Women's Depression Before and During Pregnancy (Martin, et al. 2006)
  7. Intimate Partner Violence, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Adverse Health Outcomes (Dutton, et al., 2006)
  8. Unemployment Among Women: Examining the Relationship of Physiological and Psychological Intimate Partner Violence and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (Kimmerling, et al., 2009)
  9. Mental Health Correlates of Intimate Partner Violence in Marital Relationships in a Nationally Representative Sample of Males and Females (Afifi, et. al, 2009)
  10. Violence Against Women and the Perinatal Period: The Impact of Lifetime Violence and Abuse on Pregnancy, Postpartum, and Breastfeeding (Kendall-Tackett, 2007)
  11. Intimate Partner Violence and Miscarriage: Examination of the Role of Physiological and Psychological Abuse and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (Moreland, et al., 2008)
  12. For More Articles about trauma, mental health and domestic violence visit Domestic Violence, Mental Health & Trauma Policy Initiative Publications or Sage Publications. For limited access to full text articles, advocates at Florida's certified domestic violence centers may email the request to
Academic Journal Subscriptions
Title Publication
Trauma, Violence and Abuse Sage Publications
Journal of Interpersonal Violence Sage Publications
Gender and Society Sage Publications



The following materials available for advocates employed or volunteering at one of Florida's 42 certified domestic violence centers.

Videos/ DVDs
Title Author Format
Stories No One Wants to Hear Mara Alper VHS
Trauma, Violence and Human Dignity Kinetic Video DVD
Trauma and Dissociation in Children: A Series for Child Protection Professionals Cavalcade Productions DVD
When Helping Hurts: Preventing and Treating Compassion Fatigue   DVD
SAFE Inside a Battered Women's Shelter Kinetic Video DVD


Title Author
Young Children and Trauma Joy D. Osofsky & Kyle D. Pruett
Counseling Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse Claire Burke Draucker & Donna S. Martsolf
Healing the Trauma of Domestic Violence: A Workbook for Women (New Harbinger Self-Help Workbook) Edward Kubany, Mari McCaig & Janet Laconsay
The Body Remembers Babette Rothschild
Trauma and Recovery Judith Lewis Herman
The Link Between Childhood Trauma and Mental Illness: Effective Interventions for Mental Health Professionals Barbara Everett & Ruth Gallop
Responding To Physical And Sexual Abuse In Women With Alcohol And Other Drug and Mental Disorders: Program Building Bonita M. Veysey & Colleen Clark
Sexual Abuse in the Lives of Women Diagnosed with Serious Mental Illness (New Directions in Therapeutic Intervention) (Hardcover) Maxine Harris
Women's Mental Health Services: A Public Health Perspective Bruce Levin, Andrea Blanch & Ann Jennings
Treating Trauma and Traumatic Grief in Children and Adolescents Judith A. Cohen, Anthony P. Mannarino, Esther
Trauma Recovery and Empowerment: A Clinician's Guide for Working with Women in Groups Maxine Harris
Surviving Domestic Violence: Voices of Women Who Broke Free Elaine Weiss
Women's Mental Health Services: A Public Health Perspective Bruce Lubotsky Levin, Andrea K. Blanch, Ann Jennings
Trauma Sage Publications


Domestic Violence and Mental Health Links


Mental Health Links

Mental Health News

Mental Health Hotlines

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