The Impact Of Domestic Violence On Children
America is in the throes of a silent epidemic. It is reported that 3 to 4 million children between the ages of 3 and 17 are at risk of being exposed to domestic violence. If you or your children are victims of domestic violence or have suffered from abusive behavior in the past, you may need an attorney to help protect your family. Your attorney can file a restraining order against an abusive spouse and sue for damages associated with any physical or mental injury caused by domestic violence.
Children are especially vulnerable to the effects of domestic violence because they are still mentally and emotionally developing. The long-term effects of domestic violence can last a lifetime, and victims who experience abuse as children often carry the trauma into adulthood. Physical abuse, sexual violence, and emotional violence are psychologically damaging to children. It is common for these victims to become terrified of their parents and their home. They begin to fear the people and places that are supposed to protect them. They may have issues building meaningful relationships or feeling safe as they grow up.
How does this affect the children?
Children exposed to domestic violence are more prone to experience the long-term effects of abuse, fear, and intimidation through adulthood. Most children need help, but they are too scared to tell anyone the truth about the abuse. Even a concerned neighbor, teacher, or doctor may not find out the truth because victims are told they will be taken away. This fear is overwhelming for children who are conditioned to believe the abusive behavior is reasonable or warranted. These kids deserve justice for any physical or emotional injury that occurs because of domestic violence.
It is critical to notice the signs of domestic violence before it continues or escalates. Children affected by domestic violence tend to be depressed, withdrawn, and anxious. Children may have problems eating and sleeping regularly. They may act out and bully other kids. They tend to exhibit anger issues and have problems focusing. These children feel enormous guilt and shame about the violence or abuse. Therefore, they are often sad, moody, and have problems trusting people.
As these children grow into their teenage years, they tend to have low self-esteem, depression, and often self-harm. They are also more prone to delinquency. Many victims are lost at this age when other young adults are beginning to date and seek companionship. Teens will do poorly in school. They may use drugs and alcohol to cope with any trauma associated with the violence or abuse. They are also at risk for suicide during this phase of their lives.
Teenagers who are victims of domestic violence are also more prone to continue the cycle of abuse with their partners. They are more demanding, jealous, and controlling in their relationships. These teens may blow up over the smallest incident. They try to isolate their partners from friends and separate them from their family. They need professional help to stop the abusive behavior and cope with any psychological damage caused by domestic violence during their childhood.
- Males: Men who witnessed domestic violence growing up will mimic the behavior they saw as a child. They have little or no respect for women as adults, so they repeat the same controlling and abusive behavior. Men also suffer health problems at a higher than normal rate. This includes stress-related problems, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. In addition to these common health problems, men are also at risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases. They will often have more than 50 sexual partners in their adult lifetime.
- Females: Women who witnessed domestic violence growing up are 50% more likely to become victims again as adults. They will suffer self-esteem problems because they blame themselves for the violence against them and believe the abusive behavior was justified. These women have higher rates of eating disorders, depression, and suicidal tendencies than normal. They have no concept of love for their partner or themselves. Most victims lack the money and resources to leave their abusive partners or spouses. Therefore, they learn to live with the violence and abuse rather than seek help or file charges.
What can we do?
Education, intervention and social interaction are all important factors in stopping abuse. As a society, we must learn to recognize the signs of domestic violence and offer victims help rather than turning a blind eye. We must utilize attorneys, laws, and medical and mental health care professionals. Not all children of domestic violence grow up to repeat their past, but a significant number of them do. Prevention is the key to change. These victims need our help. We can no longer afford to wait until they are in trouble to reach out to them. Here are more tips to help stop the violence:
- Learn the signs of abuse
- While the signs of domestic violence are not always easy to see, we must take notice when we see anything that sends up red flags.
- Organize your community to support each other and the victims.
- Speak up!
- If you see something, hear something, or know something - speak up! Knock on the door, call 911, knock on the doors of other neighbors to help. Make some noise and let the voice of justice be heard.
- Be the open door
- If your neighbor, friend, coworker or family member is a victim of domestic violence be their confidante. Let them know they can call you and you will take them in, then notify the authorities.
- Call them and check on them often.
- Create a code word and a safe place to meet.
- Stash an emergency bag for them with clothes, cash, cell phone, and numbers to shelters.
- Document everything
- Write down everything you see, and you know.
- Take pictures of bruises and cuts and document the dates, times, and circumstances of each one.
Together, we can rid our society of this silent epidemic. We can save the children.
About The Author: Attorney Rick Hutchinson, Esq. is a criminal defense attorney and one of the partners at Hutchinson & Huffman, P.A., a law firm that is based in the city of West Palm Beach, Florida. This practice offers legal services in a range of different criminal defense areas, including DUI, drug crimes, sex crimes, theft, white collar crimes, and more. Learn more at https://www.hutchhufflaw.com