Understanding the Impacts of Domestic Violence on Survivors
The Depp v. Heard trial has been trauma activating for many survivors. At this moment when domestic violence is receiving a lot of sensationalized attention throughout the various forms of media, we affirm the need for attention on concrete solutions—those that support survivors, educate on the realities of domestic violence, and prevent it from occurring in the first place.
Domestic Violence is about Power and Control
Domestic violence is not fundamentally an intimate
partner issue, but a societal issue resulting from learned
behaviors which allow and affirm power and control through
coercion and violence. This is a process that develops and
advances over time, with a cyclical
pattern of behaviors that focus on bringing their partner
under their control. These are not isolated, one-time actions.
This violence is manifested in a range of coercive, abusive,
and violent actions and behaviors including:
psychological, emotional, sexual, financial, legal,
spiritual, and physical abuse, as well as stalking and
Mutual abuse is a myth. The reality is that as a result of
unrelenting coercive control and/or violence, survivors may
respond in anticipation of with self-defense.
These actions are often capitalized on by the person causing
harm, allowing them to name their victim as the primary
This criminalization of a victim’s survival is
well-evidenced in the experiences we often hear from Black,
Native, immigrant, and women of color.
Successful court outcomes are often out of reach. For
many survivors experiencing economic abuse, it is not uncommon
for them to be unable to afford legal representation, and for
the person causing harm to have access to the financial
resources to hire legal representation and engage in costly,
time-consuming court proceedings. For the cases that make it to
court, the court process can be trauma activating for many
survivors who must recount the details of their experiences.
Active Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) often makes it
difficult to recall every detail of the traumatizing memories,
resulting in the questioning of the legitimacy of the
survivor’s account of the abuse and violence. Immigrant and
Limited English proficiency survivors face additional
hurdles due to language access barriers and unjust immigration
policies, and Native & Indigenous survivors face local, state,
and federal jurisdictional issues.
Domestic Violence is a Public Health Crisis. We Can and Must Prevent It.
At the root of domestic violence is oppressive social
norms—including rigid gender roles, white supremacy,
colonization, economic injustice, among others. These
inequities also reinforce domestic violence—for example, in
LGBTQIA+ relationships, this can look like threatening to out
one’s partner if they seek help and deportation for immigrant
and refugee survivors.
Domestic violence isn’t a person-to-person issue, it’s a
community issue— it silences the voices of survivors and
ripples outward to create harmful and dangerous conditions for
friends, families, and loved ones, and at jobs and schools.
Most recent data indicate that in the U.S.,
43.6 million women and 37.3 million men have experienced
intimate partner violence and 54%
of Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming people have
reported physical or coercive violence from a partner. This is
a widespread crisis that requires all of our action to prevent
We have a shared responsibility to prevent domestic
violence for future generations. Youth are a critical
partner in the work to prevent domestic violence before
adulthood. Abusive behavior is learned, and therefore, can be
unlearned. Young people themselves are the most effective
messengers to create inclusive norms and foster healthy
relationships, so adults must act in allyship and support their
leadership. This work, as well as holistic and early
intervention efforts, are inadequately funded and
require a state investment now.
- Healthy relationships at all levels are vital: those we hold with ourselves, our loved ones, and communities. For healthy relationships to occur, people must be able to meet their basic needs for safety. We lower the risk of domestic violence when we build stronger community supports to our safety net—including access to paid family leave and a range of housing options.
Survivors, you have the right to self-determination, safety
in your relationship, and community support: Reach out to
California’s network domestic violence advocates, who are here
to help no matter if the abuse is occurring now or if it was
years ago. Access our map of
domestic violence organizations throughout California to
receive support with safety planning, legal advocacy,
counseling, and more. The Family
Violence Appellate Project helps domestic violence
survivors and their children appeal dangerous trial court
decisions on their behalf, for free, and serves California and
Allyship to survivors is critical:
Learn the signs of abusive behavior, and don’t be silent if
you see it. If you know someone who is struggling in a
physical and/or emotionally abusive relationship, show you care
by listening, believing them, and connecting them
to their local domestic violence organization.
- It’s harmful to have preconceived expectations of “survivorship”: Survivors deserve our support whether they stay in the relationship, act in self-defense, self-medicate, or are unable to recall details of the traumatic experiences. Survivors are the experts in their own lives. Faced with impossible choices, they make informed decisions to maintain their safety. Survivors deserve a response filled with humanity, dignity, and grace.