Understanding Trauma & Violence


What is the impact of gender-based violence on families?


Thank you for this question. When a family member experiences gender-based violence, the trauma can create a ripple effect that impacts the entire family. For those who witnessed the violence firsthand, the impact can be particularly severe. Children who grow up in a home where violence occurs may experience a range of emotional and behavioral problems, including fear, anxiety, aggression, and difficulty forming healthy attachments. They may also be at higher risk of experiencing violence in their own relationships later in life. In addition, family members who witness violence against a loved one can experience a profound sense of powerlessness and helplessness, as well as guilt and shame for not being able to prevent the abuse. 

Even family members who did not directly witness the violence can experience secondary trauma as they support the survivor in the aftermath. Holding space for a loved one's pain and trauma can be emotionally exhausting and can lead to feelings of anger, frustration, and helplessness. Family members may struggle with how to best support the survivor while also processing their own emotions and experiences. They may also be impacted by institutional betrayal, as they witness systems not supporting their loved ones in the ways that they need.

The impact of trauma can also extend beyond the immediate family to include extended family members, friends, and even entire communities. The shame and stigma associated with gender-based violence can make it difficult for survivors and their loved ones to reach out for help and can lead to social isolation and disconnection.

It's important for family members to recognize that healing from trauma is a long and difficult process that requires patience, understanding, and support. Seeking professional help, such as therapy or counseling, can be crucial for both the survivor and their loved ones. It's also important for family members to prioritize their own self-care and to seek out support systems, such as support groups or community resources, to help them navigate the challenges of supporting a survivor.

Ultimately, breaking the cycle of violence requires a collective effort that involves not only supporting survivors and their families but also working to change societal norms and attitudes that perpetuate gender-based violence. By acknowledging the ripple effects of gender-based violence, we can better understand the magnitude of these harms and can more effectively work to repair and heal within our communities. 

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