The Link Between Domestic Abuse and PTSD

The Link Between Domestic Abuse and PTSD

By Hana Cairns

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can be caused by exposure to traumatic events such as physical or sexual assault, natural disasters, accidents, or witnessing violencei. In honour of National PTSD Awareness Day, we want to help shed light on the connection between experiencing abuse and PTSD.  

Studiesii tell us that up to 84% of domestic violence survivors develop PTSD, compared to 3.5% of those who don’t. For many women, the trauma they experience stays with them long after physical wounds have healed and can manifest as PTSD. However, these symptoms can often go unrecognized or untreated due to the complexity of managing all the additional factors associated with abuse.  

Several factors contribute to the heightened risk of PTSD among people who experience domestic abuse:

  • Shame and Guilt: Manipulation and coercive control tactics commonly used by abusers contributes to feelings of shame and guilt which amplifies PTSD symptoms.
  • Repeated Trauma: Living in an abusive environment exposes individuals to repeated trauma, including psychological and physical, and increases the likelihood of PTSD. This is true for all people who live in the abusive environment, including children.  
  • Feelings of Helplessness: People often experience feelings of helplessness and fear when experiencing abuse, which are predictors of PTSD. Again, it is important to recognize that these symptoms can also show up in children living in abusive environments.  
  • Lack of Support: Many people who experience abuse have been isolated or cut off from relationships, which amplifies their vulnerability. Having a strong support system helps increase awareness of PTSD symptoms and seek help when needed. For children in an abusive home, connecting them with external resources such as the PEACE program can help them with finding the support they need.

Barriers to Accessing Care

Despite the prevalence of PTSD among those who experience domestic abuse, accessing care remains a challenge. Research indicates that approximately 82% of individuals with PTSD symptoms encounter barriers when seeking healthcare services, such as long wait times, financial constraints, and disruptions due to external factors like the COVID-19 pandemic. Seeking support from the Kelowna Women’s Shelter can help navigate these care options and to ensure women are accessing the supportive options they need.  

Accessing Support

At the Kelowna Women’s Shelter, we are committed to supporting women on their journey to finding comfort and independence after abuse. If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse or struggling with PTSD, please know that help is available. Together, we can create a community where women who have experienced abuse feel safe, supported, and empowered to reclaim their lives.

If you, or someone you know, is experiencing abuse, please contact our 24/7 support line at:

Phone: 250-763-1040

Text: 236-970-0704

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Abuse is never okay.
Asking for help is.

Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you need us.
Our support team is on duty 24/ 7 and ready to help.

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