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Impact of Domestic Violence on Children

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Old 06-03-06, 10:08 PM
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Default Impact of Domestic Violence on Children

Impact of Domestic Violence on Children

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For children, the impact of witnessing domestic violence can be devastating. Children may witness acts of domestic violence by being present in the room during the incident of abuse, by hearing the violence from another room, or by seeing their motherís bruises, black eyes, or broken limbs. Some children are traumatized and need intensive therapeutic interventions after witnessing the abuse, while others may require only removal from the situation and support. Clearly, the impact of living in homes where domestic violence is present is detrimental to the emotional, developmental and physical well-being of those children. Studies reflect that at least 3.3 million children are exposed to domestic violence each year.

Children may be caught in harmís way and inadvertently injured during a violent episode. One study found that males 15 years of age and older often attempt to intervene in the violence perpetrated against their mothers. The children may lie terrified in their beds as the violence rages outside their bedroom doors or cower within the safety of a closet or other hiding place. In the worst case scenario, children may suffer serious injury or be killed in the battererís continuing endeavor to completely control his victim.

Many children exhibit signs of post traumatic stress disorder after witnessing domestic violence. Symptoms may include inability to sleep throughout the night, bedwetting, anger acted out through temper tantrums or directed inward and manifested by withdrawal or disassociation. As children grow older, they may experience feelings of guilt for not protecting their mothers and may turn to drugs or alcohol to numb these feelings. School-aged children tend to have poor academic performance, are absent frequently and may either have behavioral problems or withdraw and disassociate.

Studies have shown that living with domestic violence increases childrenís risk of encountering the juvenile justice system. One Massachusetts study found that children who grew up in violent homes had a six times higher likelihood of attempting suicide, a twenty-four percent greater chance of committing sexual assault crimes, a seventy-four percent increased incidence of committing crimes against a person, and a fifty percent increased chance of abusing alcohol or drugs.

Children who grow up in homes where domestic violence occurs are also more likely to abuse others or become victims of abuse as adolescents or adults. At a very early age, male children who have witnessed their fathersí abusive behavior may begin behaving similarly toward their mothers and female siblings. By age five or six, some children are disrespectful of the victim for her perceived weakness and begin identifying with the batterer. Female children learn early on that their mothers are subjugated through the abusiveness of their partners. Unfortunately, those perceptions are normalized and children actually begin to believe that their experiences are no different from the experiences of their friends or class-mates.

Children of domestic violence victims suffer in more direct ways as well. Studies have found, for example, that men who batter their partners are likely to also abuse their children.
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