Why Domestic Violence is a Community Issue

A blog post explaining how DV affects children, family and friends, the workplace, and the community.


Community members often tell us that they see domestic violence as a “private” or “family issue” that only affects the two people in the relationship. The reality is that domestic violence in a relationship affects the whole community. DV can have severe negative impacts on the target of abuse and the broader community, including children, other family members, friends, neighborhoods, and workplaces.

The Big Picture

The numbers associated with domestic violence are huge. A much larger portion of the population experiences DV than most people realize. Survivors are at high risk for depression, anxiety, PTSD, substance use disorders, and suicidal ideation. They bring the effects of abuse and the memory of the abusive relationship into their lives, though abuse is never the survivor’s fault.

  • 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men will experience domestic violence in their lifetimes (Black, 2011).
  • 54% (over 1 in 2) of transgender and nonbinary people experience intimate partner violence, including acts of coercive control and physical harm (James, 2016).
  • 1 in 2 American female homicide victims are killed by a current or former intimate partner (Ertl, 2016).
  • Domestic violence hotlines in America receive more than 19,000 phone calls daily (NNEDV, 2020), and those are just the phone calls coming in. This number doesn’t include the survivors who are experiencing DV but not reaching out for support, emergency shelter, legal advocacy, financial advocacy, counseling, and trauma treatment.

The economic costs of DV are also huge and surprising.

  • Domestic violence costs the US economy between $5.8-12.6 billion each year (World Health Organization, 2004).
  • Childhood exposure to domestic violence costs the USA an estimated $55 billion a year (Holmes, 2018). This includes estimated physical and mental healthcare costs, lifetime likelihood of violent crime, and productivity costs (lower educational attainment and a wage-earning detriment).

Beyond survivors, various segments of the community are impacted differently.

Effects on children

  • 1 in 15 children have witnessed domestic violence in the past year (Hamby, 2011).
  • 30-60% of children living in a home with domestic violence will experience abuse or neglect themselves (Edleson, 1999).

Children and teens witnessing domestic violence in their homes are more likely than other children to earn lower grades, have higher rates of anxiety and/or depression, engage with substances at higher rates, and have increased self-harm and suicidal ideation.

Witnessing domestic violence can be a traumatic experience for children. Children who are traumatized bring those experiences with them into schools, friendships, and their future dating relationships. In fact, children who witness DV are more likely to be a target or a person who uses abuse in their own teen or adult relationships.

Effects on family and friends

Domestic violence affects the family and friends of the target, even if the violence is “behind closed doors.” Family and friends often witness abusive behaviors or warning signs, but don’t believe that it’s their business or their place to get involved and talk to the target. They might think that the couple needs to stay together – for cultural reasons, the kids, or other reasons. Family and friends might also not believe what’s going on.

Unfortunately, research shows that abuse tends to get worse. When this happens, family and friends may also feel guilty for not getting involved earlier.

Sometimes, family and friends are part of the abuse. The partner who uses abuse may threaten family or friends, or purposefully draw the target away from their support system so they are isolated. A target who feels alone may not then feel comfortable reaching out to their loved ones if the situation gets more unsafe.

Effects on the workplace

Domestic violence often impacts the workplace and coworkers of the target. Survivors lose opportunities and jobs because of their partner’s abusive behaviors. Some partners use work as an abusive tactic. For example, they might purposefully make their partner late or hide keys to prevent them from going to work. This interrupts the work of all those who work with this person. The partner using abuse might show up at the workplace and intimidate the target and coworkers, which can make the atmosphere anxious and potentially unsafe.

Targets of domestic violence lose a total of 8 million days of paid work each year, which equals 32,000 full-time jobs (World Health Organization, 2004). These lost days of work are the result of abusive tactics like those described above, medical issues, legal and court dates, and more.

How You Can Help

Domestic violence impacts communities, and it will take the whole community coming together to end domestic violence once and for all. We can address this issue both by working directly with families experiencing violence and by addressing the community and societal causes of domestic violence. We can all help survivors of abuse and work to prevent future violence by spreading information about the warning signs of abuse and the services that are available. You can also model respectful actions in your own relationships and speak to young people about the importance of safe and equal relationships. Learn more about the warning signs of domestic violence and visit our website for a variety of resources and tools.

Call or text the Safe+Sound Somerset 24/7 Helpline at 866.685.1122 if you have questions or need additional information to support someone.



Black, M.C., Basile, K.C., Breiding, M.J., Smith, S.G., Walters, M.L., Merrick, M.T., Chen, J., & Stevens, M.R. (2011). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2010 Summary Report. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Edleson, J.L. “The Overlap Between Child Maltreatment and Women Battering.” Violence against Women, February 1999, 5:134-54

Ertl, A., Sheats, K.J., Petrosky, E., Betz, C.J., Yuan, K., & Fowler, K.A. (2019). Surveillance for violent deaths — national violent death reporting system, 32 states, 2016. MMWR. Surveillance Summaries, 68(9). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/68/ss/ss6809a1.htm

Hamby, S, Finkelhor, D., Turner, H., & Ormrod, R. (2011). Children’s Exposure to Intimate Partner Violence and Other Family Violence. Retrieved from https://www.ojp.gov/pdffiles1/ojjdp/232272.pdf

Holmes, M.R., Richter, F.G.C., Votruba, M.E. et al. (2018). Economic Burden of Child Exposure to Intimate Partner Violence in the United States. Journal of Family Violence, 33, 239–249. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10896-018-9954-7

James, S.E., Herman, J.L., Rankin, S., Keisling, M., Mottet, L., & Anafi, M. (2016). The Report of the 20215 U.S. Transgender Survey. Washington, DC: National Center for Transgender Equality.

National Network to End Domestic Violence. (2020). 14th annual domestic violence counts report. Retrieved from NNEDV.org/DVCounts

World Health Organization. (2004). The Economic Dimensions of Intimate Partner Violence. Retrieved from http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/42944/1/9241591609.pdf