For far too many children in America, domestic violence and abuse is normal, as it is the common way of life in their lives and in their homes.
Disturbingly, up to five million children in the United States witness domestic violence each year. Whether it’s watching an act of physical or sexual abuse, listening to threats or sounds of violence, or viewing the evidence of such abuse in a victim in the signs of bleeding, bruises, torn clothing, or broken items, the effects are damaging to a child, in a variety of ways. Indeed, witnessing domestic abuse can be most traumatic for a child.
To be sure, children are often great imitators, and model what they learn and experience from the adults in their lives. Make no mistake; a child’s greatest role model is often the parent. For those children who have watched a parent inflict violence and abuse upon another, these children are more apt to repeat this later on in their adult life with their spouses or partners. As a foster parent of 15 years and of over 50 children, I have seen so many children repeat the cycle of abuse they not only received, but were also witness to. For those children who have witnessed domestic violence, they may become defiant or aggressive in their own right. Indeed, many of these children turn to drugs and alcohol later, as they age.
A child’s educational development is also at risk, due to witnessing domestic abuse. Normally, as a child grows in age, he will experience growth intellectually. His language will increase in terms of vocabulary development, as he first learns to speak, recite the alphabet, and eventually gain a larger personal vocabulary, conversational ability, and writing skills. Yet, when a child witnesses domestic violence, the trauma of this experience may hinder or impair normal child brain development. Furthermore, these children also are more likely to face challenges and difficulties in school, in both academic performance and discipline. Finally children who are witnesses to domestic abuse may be more anxious than others, and experience feelings and emotions of anger, depression, stress, and fear.
There can be healing, and there can be recovery for these children, but it will not happen overnight; it will not be instantaneous. With time, with patience, with love, with therapy, and with treatment, children who have lived with domestic violence in their lives can find the help they need.
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