“Many people assume that they would never be the victim of domestic violence or know someone in this situation, but the reality is that domestic violence crosses over race, income, and religion.” Christina Bach, LPC-S, Division Director of Clinical Services
Domestic abuse affects children and families in lots of different ways, even if kids are not being physically abused themselves. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network explains some of the many ways that abuse can impact kids and families. For example, children can exhibit behavioral problems, including tantrums, difficulty sleeping, and violent or abusive behavior. They may have problems both at home and in school if they witness abuse in the home. Children can also become clinging or fearful. They may be especially clingy with the parent who was victimized after each incident of abuse occurs. When the children become older, they may become involved in drugs and may drink to cope with witnessing abuse. Kids who grow up in violent homes are more likely to abuse substances. Often times, children feel responsible for “fixing” their family. Abuse changes the family dynamic and can result in kids feeling responsible for caring for a parent or solving the problems of the abusive behavior. These are just some of the ways that kids can be impacted.
Christina continues to say, “parents (predominantly women) who are in a domestic violence situation may believe that they are protecting their children from abuse, but the reality is that children often see and hear the abuse and may even blame themselves.”
Children can experience short-term and long-term consequences of witnessing domestic violence. “There is help out there and no one has to stay in an abusive relationship” states Christina. Often, with the right support and therapy, they can recover from witnessing abuse once the abusive behavior comes to an end.
What should you do if you are the victim of domestic abuse? If your partner is threatening you or hurting you, you should contact law enforcement right away. If you are facing an active threat, contact 911 to receive emergency help. If your partner is not currently in a position to harm you, but you fear abuse is a possibility, you can visit your local police station. If you have been victimized by violence, you should also seek medical attention both so you can make certain your injuries are appropriately treated and so you can establish a record of the abuse. “There is help out there, and hope. You are not alone” states Christina Bach.