Domestic Violence: the Effect it has on Children

Growing up, children need a safe environment. A home where they can feel secure, and have a sense of stability. Where parents love and protect their children. A home free of violence, and when things go wrong in the outside world, home is a place of comfort and support.

But for over 1.5 million children in the United States, this is not the case. Every year, hundreds of millions of children in the United States experience one parent violently assaulting the other, and the experience is traumatizing. In fact, 95% of domestic violence cases involve women victims of male partners. The effects of domestic violence on children negatively affects their future and health. The effects of domestic violence on women is well known compared to the known effect on children.

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Domestic violence is a pattern of assaultive and coercive behaviours including physical, sexual and psychological attacks, as well as economic coercion used by adults or adolescents against their current or former intimate partners. Children who witness domestic violence silently suffer, with little to no support. They are in terrible pain on the inside, with chaotic families, most of the time blaming themselves for the abuse. A family that seems so perfect, can be much different behind closed doors. The children who around others always smile and joke, but are secretly dreading going home, to where they won’t know what triggers the abuse. They don’t talk about the abuse to anyone, not even each other most of the time.

Children who witness domestic violence are known to have depression, severe anxiety, PTSD, and have a hard time focusing on topics in school. They may wet their bed, have more nightmares than a usual child would have, and may feel abandoned. Witnessing domestic violence, affects children’s future. They may exhibit criminal behavior, substance abuse, and have suicidal tendencies in the future. These children may get into more fights in school, bully, or misbehave. The emotional response of feeling shame is common, that their family is not like the ones of their friends.

How can people prevent domestic violence? Most victims keep quiet about domestic violence. They feel embarrassment or shame, or are afraid that their abuser will batter them even more. Signs of domestic violence include physical injuries(most victims will make up a story, but the severity of the injury is normally worse), being unusually quiet, anxiety, one may notice that the victim will ask their partner permission before going anywhere or doing anything. Many people think “Why doesn’t the victim just leave the abusive partner?”. It is not as easy as it sounds. Leaving can be dangerous for the victim of abuse and sometimes, the abuser will go after the victim. Be supportive and let the victim I know you are there for them and help them make a safety plan. Just know one thing; you cannot “rescue” the victim.

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