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Children are affected after witnessing domestic violence

by Lois Pruneau

October is domestic violence awareness month. Please be aware of the effects of domestic violence on children.

Every year, millions of children witness violence in their homes. Seeing and hearing episodes of domestic violence is in itself a form of child abuse. Domestic violence is a pattern of coercive control that one person uses in intimate relationships in order to control another individual.

Domestic violence includes emotional, physical and sexual abuse. Witnessing such abuse between family members affects children in many ways. Its effects often cause them problems straight into adulthood. An abusive home means living in constant fear. Children fear that the abuser, whose anger is out of control, will turn on them next.

Children are also afraid what will happen to them if their mother is hurt or their father is taken to jail. Child abuse is 15 times more likely to occur in families where domestic violence is present. Children exposed to abuse are often insecure and display emotional and behavioral disturbances, such as depression, loneliness, low self-esteem, fear, anxiety, sleeping difficulties and a sense of helplessness.

Teens and children who witness violence are more likely to:

– Abuse alcohol and drugs.

– Fail in school and drop out.

– Run away from home.

– Abuse their friends or dating partners.

– Commit sexual offense.

– Engage in criminal acts.

– Attempt suicide.

A battering home teaches violence as an effective means of gaining control over others. Some children learn to solve problems and respond to conflict by using force and coercion. Children who grow up in violent homes can become the next generation of victims or perpetrators of violence.

The way we can help is to become informed and know the facts, raise community awareness by informing others about domestic violence, teach children that violence is not an acceptable way to handle conflicts and problems and hold batterers accountable for their actions. Speak up and let them know that the community condemns this behavior.

For more information, contact Family Support Council domestic violence/sexual assault caseworkers at 782-8692.

– Lois Pruneau is the domestic violence/sexual assault coordinator at the Family Support Council.