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How Domestic Violence Affects Children

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How Domestic Violence Affects Children

Domestic violence creeps up out of nowhere and finds its ugly way into so many lives. Nobody ever believes it can or will happen to them, yet suddenly find themselves in a dangerous situation. Domestic violence does not discriminate either: It can happen to black or white, rich or poor, highly educated or uneducated.

So often, there is a stigma attached, and victims who believe they should be better than this end up blaming themselves. This is very sad and unfortunate, because IT IS NEVER YOUR FAULT. Even if you did awful things, even if you’re a horrible person, even if you are smart, even if you are fat, even if anything…it is not your fault. Only the person committing the violence is responsible for his or her own actions.

When domestic violence happens in a family, everyone is a victim. While the partner is likely to get the bulk of it, whether the abuse is physical or verbal, the children bear witness to it over and over again. Children and teens see and hear what is going on.

Not only is it terrifying, they often relive it by dealing with the aftermath, such as mom’s black eye the next day. Frequently, they learn to lie to hide what is really going on. They become aware of the dynamics in the family, and they sense the tension and problems that exist, even if you try to shield them from it.

Studies show that 3-4 million children between the ages of 3-17 are at risk of exposure to domestic violence each year. Witnessing domestic violence is the single best predictor of juvenile delinquency and adult criminality. It is also the number one reason children run away.

The effects of being subjected to domestic violence can be devastating and traumatic.   While most of the effects are behavioral and emotional, this can manifest itself in physical ailments as well.

Here is a list of some of the major effects domestic violence has on children.

  1. Behavioral and emotional problems
  2. Stomach aches or headaches
  3. Bedwetting
  4. Never feeling safe, always on edge
  5. Developmental delays
  6. Living in constant fear
  7. Anxiety
  8. Depression
  9. PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)
  10. Running away
  11. Inability to concentrate
  12. Poor grades
  13. Unhealthy coping skills or lack of coping skills
  14. Aggression or criminal acts
  15. Drug or alcohol use and abuse
  16. Poor relationships (both now and in the future)
  17. Shame
  18. Low self-esteem
  19. Becoming abusers
  20. Choosing a partner that is an abuser

Children raised in a home with domestic violence learn from their parents’ example. Unfortunately, this often means repeating the same patterns they learned in their own homes when they become adults themselves. Children learn that violence is the acceptable way to solve problems, and girls learn that women do not deserve respect.

So often, we see these boys grow into men that become batterers themselves, and we see these girls marry men just like that. People always seek that which is familiar, even if it not necessarily healthy. The pattern continues for generations until someone has the courage to seek help and break the cycle.

If you are in a domestic violence situation of any type, please reach out and use the resources that are available to you to improve your life, for yourself and your children. You all deserve safety and happiness and a healthy environment. You owe this to your children and to yourself.

There is help available and you can get out and rebuild your lives. Nobody deserves to be degraded, insulted, or blamed. Nobody deserves to be isolated or controlled.   Nobody deserves to be physically or emotionally hurt. And nobody should have to live in fear, especially not innocent children.

If you need help, please call the
National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233

*This article uses stereotypical male/female roles, assuming the male is the perpetrator and the female is the victim. This is only for the sake of this article, as domestic violence can happen in any type of relationship and the perpetrators and victims can be any gender.

Lori Freson Lori Freson is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Southern California. She has been working in the mental health field since 1997, and has been a licensed therapist since 2002. Lori currently works in her own thriving private practice in Encino and Sherman Oaks, where she serves the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles areas.
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