By Megan Harris
When the topic of domestic violence comes up, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Is it the abusive relationship, the physical and emotional injuries, the isolation of a loved one, or the feeling of being helpless? There are some important people closely involved in these toxic relationships that often go unseen and unnoticed. They often keep quiet in order to protect themselves and their family out of fear. These people are the children who live in households with domestic violence occurring around them. The thought used to be that if a child doesn’t see the domestic violence it doesn’t effect them, but recent studies strongly suggests otherwise.
Domestic violence has many indirect effects on children. When there is domestic violence in a household the dynamics between parents/partners change. Not only does this affect the adults’ relationship, but it also affects their relationship with their children. In a household where the father is abusive towards the mother their parenting style tends to shift towards being more authoritative, neglectful, verbally abusive, and can even expose the children to the risk of emotional and physical abuse. Mothers who are being abused may assume a more passive parenting role. They may become less emotionally available to their children in order to protect them and herself. In some cases mothers who are abused turn to a variety of coping mechanisms such as substance abuse. In order to keep the peace in the household mothers often try to protect their children from the abuse by defending the abuser or down playing the events. This creates emotional distance between the mother and children because the children don’t feel they can bring their feelings and fears to their mother’s attention.
Aside from parenting changes, the exposure to domestic violence has immediate and long-term effects on children. The effects are numerous and every child reacts differently to domestic violence. Typically they can have two extremes. On one hand the child may exhibit an increase in aggressive behavior, rebellious behavior, mood swings, drug or alcohol abuse, poor school performance, and/or anger management problems. On the other hand they may internalize their trauma. This may result in anxiety, low self-esteem, shame/guilt, withdrawal, dependency, isolation from friends, trust issues, and nightmares. These are just a few ways children react to domestic violence and they may show signs that fit both of these scenarios. Some of the less recognized effects of domestic violence are stress manifesting itself into physical symptoms such as frequent headaches and stomach aches, tiredness, frequent illness, regression in mental development, self abuse, and poor personal hygiene. Other symptoms may mimic mental disorders such as hyperactivity disorder, ADD, OCD, and oppositional defiant disorders. By addressing their exposure to domestic violence with counseling and healing, these symptoms may go away.
In order to help these children through the healing process, seeing the world the way they do and listening to how they think is crucial. When we understand the reasoning of children we can better discuss the situation in a way that they would understand. For example, a child may think that if the police are called to the house, everyone will go to jail.
What every child needs :
Facts and Statistics
During a child’s life their minds and character are being shaped into the adult they will become. When a child’s life is surround by domestic violence the cycle can keep going, but if their emotional and mental health are addressed and cared for we can stop the cycle of domestic violence. Creating awareness of the effects domestic violence has on children and teens can create a strong and healthy generation focused on ending domestic violence in the world we live in.
If you or someone you know is in need of counseling, please call Beacon of Hope. We are here to help.
Beacon of Hope Crisis Center
Crisis Line: 317-731-6140
CHILDREN’S WITNESSING OF ADULT DOMESTIC VIOLENCE www.ncdsv.org/images/childrenwitnessingadultdv.pdf
When Dad Hurts Mom: Helping Your Children Heal the Wounds of Witnessing Abuse
Author: Lundy Bancroft
Published: March 1, 2005
Children and Domestic Violence abetterwaymuncie.org/signs-of-domestic-violence/children-and-domestic-violence/
About this blog
This blog is about our domestic and sexual violence crisis center, Beacon of Hope. We hope you find it full of helpful information, motivation, creativity, serious facts and positivity. We hope that it will help you know what is happening in our center, in our community and with our events. We hope you follow our blog in support of our organization and our mission.