FACT: More than 3 million children in the U.S. witness domestic violence every year. Even if they are not directly abused, living in a violent home can have devastating effects on children. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, an important opportunity to update your tools and resources for families experiencing violence:
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and last week, on October 22nd, we wore purple to promote awareness. The color purple signifies “courage, persistence, honor, and the commitment to ending domestic violence” (NRCDV). Domestic violence is violence or physical abuse directed toward one’s spouse or intimate partner, and it causes more injuries each year to American women than car crashes, muggings, and rapes combined. It is important to be aware that spouses or intimate partners are not necessarily the only victims when domestic violence is occurring.
Every year at least 3.3 million children in the U.S. witness domestic violence. Children of all ages who witness domestic violence are impacted in the long term. This is a contradiction to the common assumption that the younger the child, the less likely the child will be affected.
Infants and toddlers exposed to domestic violence can exhibit poor health and symptoms of stress. Their needs may be ignored while the parents are coping with the violence, making these babies more prone to mistrust and emotional withdrawal later in life.
Young children who witness domestic violence often believe that they are the reason for the conflict. This perception can grow into crippling feelings of guilt, worthlessness and anxiety.
When pre-teens see partner violence in the home, their feelings of frustration and helplessness may translate into violent or antisocial acting-out in school. Some may bully their classmates to gain a sense of power, while others may avoid relationships altogether.
Adolescents who have grown up feeling helpless to rescue an abused parent may deliberately create situations that make them feel wanted and in control. They may recklessly seek acceptance and escape through sex, drugs or gangs.
If you know a child who is witnessing domestic violence, YOU can make a difference, potentially mitigating these long term psychological and behavioral effect. You can:
Be a positive role model
Help the child make a safety plan
Know when to take action
Alexandria Domestic Violence Program (703) 838-4911
With October — Domestic Violence Awareness Month — drawing to a close, it’s an important time for us to remember that there is no time limit on violence in the home. It happens all year long, in every community.
And it always, always affects the children involved.
Every year, 3 million children in the U.S. are exposed to domestic violence. And that’s a conservative estimate. About 50% of the time, the abuser victimizes children as well as the adult partner. But even if the child is not directly abused, the ramifications of being a witness to a parent’s abuse (or just knowing it is occurring) can include everything from anxiety and depression to academic failure to homelessness.
Get closer to your kids by teaching them the difference between healthy and unhealthy romantic relationships.
It’s common knowledge that as children grow older, so does their interest in dating peers. But what if they become involved with an abusive partner?
Before your children enter the dating world—or now, if they’re already there—it’s a good idea to learn more about intimate partner violence and then share the information with your child through honest and open dialogue. These discussions can open up lines of communication for future relationship-related conversation, improving your child’s judgment and your relationship in one fell swoop. All of the following information comes from Choose Respect’s “Causing Pain: Real Stories of Dating Abuse and Violence” – a video discussion guide made for children as young as 11, but also applicable to adult viewers who want to prevent abuse in relationships.
Many youth and adults don’t realize how frequently dating violence occurs. One in four young people report verbal, physical, emotional, or sexual abuse each year. In Arlington, Virginia, 499 boys and girls in grades 8-12 have been physically hurt by a partner in the past year. When we consider that 72% of 8th and 9th graders “date,” this data seems both scary and close to home. If your teen understands and experiences healthy relationships, they are much less likely to become involved with someone who treats them poorly.
You can help your children identify healthy relationships by talking to them about warning signs and behavior. Make sure they are thinking critically about their friends’ relationships – whether they abuse drugs or alcohol, or whether they have developed low self-esteem or body image. According to Choose Respect, “Several studies suggest that young people do not see the negative effects of dating abuse in their friends’ lives. Thirty-one percent of youth report having at least one friend who is in an abusive relationship.” If they can recognize the difference between unhealthy and healthy relationships, they are more likely to help themselves and their peers.
Additional tools to help parents understand and talk about teen dating violence include:
By having open, honest and respectful communication about difficult topics, your children learn that these are the types of conversations they should be having with other people they care about. Equality, honesty, safety, independence, humor, and comfort are important parts of a relationship, whether that relationship is romantic, platonic or familial. Make sure your child understands how to appropriately deal with conflict resolution and anger management. Too many times an abusive partner says the victim “made” them lash out by angering them, but that is not an excuse to treat someone you care about poorly. And it’s not only about what not to do, but what to do in order to foster a loving and safe partnership. Modeling the behaviors of a healthy relationship may help them avoid getting involved in abusive relationships, as well as teach them how to respectfully treat a future partner or family. And, one day, they may have the same conversations with their children – which is exactly what we hope for.