October is Domestic Violence Awareness month, but every day of every month of every year is a good day to help someone get away from violence. Domestic violence is an ongoing experience of physical, psychologic and/or sexual abuse in the home that is used to establish power and control over another person and spans all economic and cultural backgrounds. The children exposed to the violence are often the forgotten, unheard victims and in turn feel lost, isolated and vulnerable. They are starved for attention, affection and approval and they become physically, emotionally and psychologically abandoned.
Child witnesses are prone to have inappropriate attitudes about violence as a means of resolving problems and often a greater willingness to use violence themselves. Some emotional responses may include fear, guilt, shame, sleep disturbances, sadness, depression and anger (at both the abuser for the violence and at the mother for being unable to prevent the violence).
They also have higher rates of PTSD, anxiety and depression, along with social and relationship problems stemming from an inability to bond and form secure attachments to others. These children tend to have a pessimistic view of the future resulting in an increased rate of risk-taking behavior such as school truancy, early sexual activity, substance abuse, delinquency, self-injury and suicide. Children who are exposed to domestic violence often have intensified startle reactions and are constantly on guard, watching and waiting for the next violent act to occur. They never know what will trigger the abuse, and therefore, they never feel safe.
Children do not have to be hit to suffer the effects of violence. Parents may think that the children are not privy to the violence if the violence occurs after the children have gone to bed or are playing in another part of the home. In reality, however, children hear and see much more than their parents realize and it’s probable they are not sleeping through it.
Whether children are physically abused, they still can suffer emotional and psychological trauma from living in homes where there is continual abuse and they are denied a life fostering healthy development. Children who grow up observing their mothers being abused by their fathers grow up with a reversed view of intimate relationships in which one person uses intimidation and aggression to manipulate the other person to get their way.
Because children have a natural tendency to identify with strength, they may ally themselves with the abuser and lose respect for their seemingly helpless mother. Abusers typically play into this by putting the mother down in front of her children. Seeing their mothers treated with disrespect teaches children that they can hurt and disrespect women the way their fathers do.
Violence in the home shatters a child’s basic right to feel safe and secure in the world. Many are suffering silently, with little to no support, and they need to know there are adults who will listen to them, believe them and shelter them. Adults who work with children, including teachers, social workers, relatives, and parents themselves, need awareness and skills to recognize and meet the needs of children exposed to violence in the home and to refer children to appropriate services. Children exposed to violence in the home need to know they are not alone and the violence is not their fault. They need hope for the future and it is our responsibility to show them things can change and violence can end.
Gaia by the Med Retreats and PTSD Coaching specialises in non-invasive, brain-based techniques that help clients alleviate the symptoms of PTSD, trauma and anxiety. These techniques are simple and easy to use and can be self administered once the client learns how to apply them, resulting in a powerful and beneficial long term impact.