The Full Cost Extends Beyond the Individual
Though the cost to society might pale in comparison to an individual’s traumatic experience, it’s important to note that the effects of domestic violence extend far beyond the homes in which it occurs.
Ramifications to Children in the Home
Unfortunately, children are also a frequent target of domestic violence abusers. However, even when children are not directly physically or emotionally abused, the stress of the situation in the household causes immense harm. Children who witness domestic violence have increased stress, anxiety, and emotional challenges. This not only affects their mental health but also their ability to focus and learn in school. A lack of educational success can lead to even more far-reaching challenges in the lives of these children.
Future Chronic Health Problems
In addition to cost of physical injuries that occur as a direct result of abuse, other health problems can arise in survivors from the stress of abuse. “Women directly affected by violence are more likely report the following: use of disability equipment; arthritis; asthma; activity limitations; stroke; high blood cholesterol; heart attack; heart disease; risk factors for HIV and STDs; smoking; and heavy or binge drinking” (Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000).
The magnitude of increase to these risk factors is astounding: “Abused women are 70% more likely to have heart disease, 80% more likely to experience a stroke, and 60% more likely to develop asthma” (Pearl, Robert MD; Fortune, Dec. 2013). These health problems cause additional suffering for survivors, and they also put more strain on the healthcare system.
The Economic Cost
Domestic violence leaves behind terrible emotional pain and trauma, which is difficult to quantify. The cost of the physical toll it takes can be more easily estimated. According to the CDC, in 2003, the direct healthcare costs of domestic violence totaled approximately $4.1 billion. An additional $1.8 billion was lost in productivity due to injuries and premature death. Domestic violence is the number one cause of injury for women ages 18-44 (Pearl, Robert MD; Fortune, Dec. 2013).
On average, victims of intimate partner violence lose a total of 8 million days of paid work each year as a result of their abuse. This absenteeism comes as a result of survivors recovering from injuries, as well as an inability to get to work due to their partner sabotaging their means of transportation or child care, among other controlling tactics.
In 2010, it was estimated that the average cost to society of a homicide is $17.25 million. Out of that figure, $307,355 is estimated to go to expenses within the justice system (“Average Homicide Cost is $17.25M, Study Concludes,” ABA Journal, October 18, 2010). Even without taking into account the moral and ethical costs of homicide, prevention programs are clearly the cheaper alternative from a financial perspective alone.
The Safety Risk to the Community at Large
Domestic violence abusers are not only a risk to their partners and family but also their community. While law enforcement officers are at an especially high risk of harm, violence wrought by abusers can also lead to injury or death of everyday bystanders. Law enforcement and justice system resources are also heavily taxed by addressing domestic violence issues, leading to a variety of unintended consequences we may never be able to fully evaluate.