Children are deeply affected by witnessing domestic violence in the home. They often suffer serious physical and emotional effects that can last a lifetime. Without treatment, children often repeat these behaviors in their own families, continuing the cycle of abuse for generations to come.
Sadly, millions of children across the country between the ages of three and 17 are exposed to domestic violence every year. Exposure happens when children witness a parent or family member physically or sexually abuse another. They may hear the shouting, screaming, or crying from another room. They also sense the fear and sadness of the parent or sibling that is the target of the abuse.
Children who witness domestic violence in the home often do not feel safe. They may become anxious, always anticipating the next violent episode. They may feel the need to always be on alert and worry about the safety of their parent and siblings, yet feel powerless to protect them.
Feelings of anger, shame, and guilt are common among children who have been exposed to domestic abuse. In some cases, they misplace anger toward the parent who is the victim of the domestic violence, falsely believing that if they avoided triggering the abuser, life would be better. They can also take the blame for the abuse, thinking they did something to cause it. They may retreat from others out of fear they will find out their family secret.
Because parents are often so consumed by the cycle of domestic violence, their children can be physically and emotionally neglected. The abuser fixates on the target of his or her abuse and is unable to be a present parent. The victim just tries to survive, also unable to be an engaged parent. Children of domestic abuse may feel their needs are never met, leaving them ill-prepared to navigate the outside world with confidence and security.
Besides the emotional toll that domestic abuse takes on children, it also often presents itself physically. Children growing up amid chaos and violence can have headaches, stomachaches, and bedwetting issues well beyond the toddler years. Intellectually, they may perform poorly at school because of their inability to concentrate. Without parental support and engagement, their speech and motor skills may be delayed. Without a secure routine and structure, they may not attend school on a regular basis.
Even if children are spared physical abuse, witnessing violence in the home can have a negative impact on their future health and well-being. They grow up with distorted role models of romantic relationships and may be at risk of repeating the same patterns of abuse. Children who are exposed to domestic violence may fail to learn healthy coping skills. They may also turn to violence to solve problems. Studies show they are also at high risk for drug and alcohol abuse, juvenile delinquency, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The safest thing to do for children who have witnessed violence or abuse in the home is to remove them from the situation immediately. Children should be taken to a safe place away from the abusive parent. This may mean they have to spend some time staying with grandparents or other family members. In some cases however, children are safer staying with a trusted family friend. Once physical safety is accounted for, it is recommended that children get emotional assistance with regular visits to a licensed therapist.
Towson Domestic Violence Lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC Advocate for Children Exposed to Domestic Violence
If you are a victim of domestic violence, the Towson domestic violence lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC will advocate for the safety of you and your children. We treat every client with empathy and compassion. Call our offices at 443-589-0150 to arrange a confidential consultation or contact us online.
We serve clients in and around Hunt Valley, Cockeysville, Lutherville, Timonium, Upper Falls, Phoenix, Riderwood, Sparks, Glencoe, Towson, Brooklandville, Butler, Stevenson, Glyndon, Monkton, Reisterstown, Pikesville, Owings Mills, Parkville, Boring, Glen Arm, Baldwin, Upperco, Hydes and Baltimore County.