menu/ DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

american domestic violence hotlines

- 1-800-799-SAFE

- 1-800-FYI-CALL

- 303-839-1852

- Domestic Violence: 415-681-4850

- Batterers Anonymous: 909-355-1100

- Online support groups at Abuse-Free Mail Lists and at Violence Against Women

- Women's centers, domestic violence shelters, mental health centers

- Is Your Relationship Heading into Dangerous Territory?

- Why Women Stay

The US National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-7233

For abusers:

- Broken Spirits.com

- Online Abuse

- Child Witness to Domestic Violence

- Help Overcoming Professional Exploitation

 

domestic violence: through the eyes of a child

CAUGHT IN THE CROSSFIRE: CHILDREN + DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

by Tracy Burt, Children's Program Coordinator, Support Network for Battered Women

The domestic violence movement has become increasingly aware of the devastating impact of domestic violence on children's lives. Over three million children in the United States are exposed to parental violence each year. Whether or not children actually witness the violence, they are now considered to be victims of this epidemic.

As they grow and develop, children form assumptions about the world in which they live. Is their world consistent and predictable or chaotic and unsafe? Will their parents be able to keep them safe and protected? Exposure to domestic violence creates inordinate stresses in a child's life.

In addition to the trauma of knowing that one parent hurts another “on purpose,” children in homes where domestic violence occurs are 15 times more likely to experience child abuse than children in non-violent homes. Instead of becoming used to regular routines in a safe environment, children enter an environment filled with stress and tension.

 

the early years

From the time children are conceived, they become intimately connected with and affected by domestic violence directed at their mothers. Violence tends to increase during pregnancy, which in turn contributes to an increased rate of miscarriage. Infants often develop an intense fear of adults, lose their appetite and scream incessantly. Unfortunately, these behaviors create more strain for families that are already over-stressed.

acting out

Sharon is four years old. She has trouble focusing at school and often hits other children in her class...

Every child responds differently to witnessing or directly experiencing domestic violence, depending on his or her temperament, usual coping mechanisms, developmental stage and support systems. Some children may respond with internalized symptoms such as regression and social isolation. Others may develop externalized negative behaviors that includes nightmares, hyperactivity, aggression and delinquency.

Research about children of various ages has found that from 50 to 70 per cent of children exposed to domestic violence suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder at a higher rate than either Vietnam Veterans or rape victims. Violence puts them at significantly higher risk for behaviors ranging from extreme withdrawal to hyperactivity and for consequences ranging from school failure to suicide and criminal behavior.

anger

Jeff is thirteen. He has lived with his mother and father his entire life. He loves both his parents but feels angry with his Dad for hitting his Mom and angry at his Mom for not protecting herself. Over the last few years, Jeff has begun to take the situation into his own hands, vowing to stop his Dad from ever hurting his Mom again.

Mothers in violent relationships are often unable to protect their children from their batterers, who may threaten children's physical safety in order to control her behavior. The violence takes a mother away from her children, both physically and emotionally. Ironically, mothers often stay in violent relationships so that their children can maintain their relationship with the second parent (father/partner). Children are often literally “caught in the crossfire” and may be injured when an object is thrown or when they try to protect their mother.

shame

Nina is nine. She is well-behaved and performs well in school, but has made up elaborate lies about her happy family. Her shame prevents her from ever having friends over.

As children age, they feel increasingly responsible for the violence in their homes. A school-aged child often feels caught between love for the father and desire to protect the mother. Shame becomes a dominant theme. Children become increasingly isolated from their peers as they act out in school and cease to invite friends home. As children grow into teens they develop higher levels of delinquency and violent behavior than those in non-violent homes.

the perfectionist

“If only I did better in school...”

On the other hand, a child may become intensely perfectionist, believing that he will be able to make things better between his parents if only he is “good enough.” Children who follow this path tend to do well in school and consequently are not identified by teachers as needing help or support. Without outside support children continue these patterns and are at a higher risk for suicide and other self-destructive behaviors.

dating

Joshua is fifteen. He hates his father and vowed that he would never treat women the way that his father treats his mother. He recently began dating a girl in his class. He has found himself becoming increasingly jealous of time she spends with her friends and last week he hit her ...

As teens explore romantic relationships, the relational patterns they have learned at home, based on control and dominance rather than respect and equality, often affect their expectations of romantic partners. But with intervention, the cycle of violence can be interrupted.

breaking the cycle

While the picture for children exposed to domestic violence may at first appear dismal, Support Network staff and volunteers bear witness daily to the incredible resilience of children. The most critical factor in determining whether a child will be able to overcome the devastating impact of growing up exposed to domestic violence is the existence of a consistent and supportive relationship in their lives, often with a teacher, counselor, or extended family member.

When we work with children at the Support Network we help them identify and build upon their strengths, while at the same time developing supportive relationships. We provide both individual and group counseling, including psycho-educational groups for 5 to 8- year-olds and 9 to 12-year-olds. Being a part of these groups is often the first opportunity children have to share their experiences with children their own age. The children learn to support each other and themselves. We hear again and again how participation in our groups transforms children's lives.

Finally, our consistent support of mothers constitutes an essential intervention in the lives of children. Empowering mothers to be able to make positive changes in their lives and supporting their healing process is one of the most important keys to helping children heal and to break the intergenerational cycle of violence. As children begin to express their feelings and to understand the causes and effects of their behavior, they are able to begin changing the patterns in their lives

Every member of our community has opportunities to support children living in violent homes. Reaching out to a neighbor's child, volunteering time to work on our crisis line or with children, and talking to others about the effects of domestic violence on children all help to interrupt the cycle of violence and promote prevention and healing.

children + domestic violence: the facts

Children in homes where domestic violence occurs are 15 times more likely to experience child abuse than children in non-violent homes.


50 - 70 % of children exposed to domestic violence suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder [PTSD], a higher rate than either Vietnam Veterans or rape victims.


Violence tends to increase during pregnancy, resulting in an increased rate of miscarriage.

As children grow into teens they exhibit higher levels of delinquency and violent behavior than those in non-violent homes.

© 1999, Support Network for Battered Women The Support Network is an active participant in national domestic violence in the workplace efforts and educates Bay Area businesses on the connections between domestic violence and the workplace. For more information on this program or to organize a speaker in your workplace contact the Community Education Department at (408) 541-6100 or communityed@snbw.org


There is a limit to which a human being can be degraded; there is a limit to which a human being can be abused.
Amedeo unleashed his violence on his history master during a lesson on the overly-enthusiastic strategies of the Austrian and Russian commands in the early part of World War II. He pushed his chair back from the desk and stood, mechanically walked to the front of the classroom and without the most marginal change in expression, grasped the master's chair and brought it down heavily over the man's head. My brother was tall even then, with rower's shoulders and adamant hands. The master crumpled like that proverbial house of cards. Amedeo paused and then began to kick his face and torso with all his mass, until six astounded peers leapt up and struggled to restrain him.
Predictably, he was expelled in some disgrace.
Equally predictable was the turbulence at home, turbulence which took the form of Aldo blackening both his eyes, splitting his lip so that it required fifteen stitches, and fracturing his right humerus by throwing him from the balcony. A Chi'ing vase was shattered. Chairs and tables - cabriole feet kicking - were overturned. Certain priceless pieces were destroyed. Huge glossy books on Arbus and Soutine were flung at mirrors and through windows.
I attempted to intervene, but was thrown mightily against the wall and broke my wrist. Unconscious Amedeo lying by the salt-water pool in his own blood. My mother - with a stifled gulp and loud low tomcat hiss - had observed the two men in her life for a Roman moment before rapidly scaling the stairs in her stiletto-heeled blue marabou-feather mules, robe fluttering.
I discovered her striking an attitude by her bedroom window: - left arm perpendicular to her bowed head, right hand crushing the sleeve of that soft robe to her hard mouth, snivelling, puling, bawling, begging an Almighty in whom she had never believed for his help. Outside, a massive bone-white moon was reflected in black sheets of water. The night was still and cool. An ambulance, policemen, wreckages.
Misery is so easy to create.

- from The Pure Weight of the Heart, by Antonella Gambotto-Burke

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