Domestic Abuse: Children are also affected

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(Photo: Mudchute Park, Isle of Dogs)

by Jennifer Valentine-Miller

The effects of seeing a parent experience domestic violence can lead a child into prolonged self-abuse.  I believe that any form of abuse should be reported, if not to officials, but most definitely to grandparents, in-laws, or other family members who could temporarily look after both you and the child or children. Domestic violence can prevent a child’s mind and educational thought pattern from developing, causing malfunctioning and even a breakdown. You may feel that you will be blamed for failing as a parent, or asking for help, and you may worry that your children will be taken away from you if you report the violence.

[1]Acting responsibly and seeking help for both you and your children is key, as well as not blaming yourself for someone else’s abuse. It is important that you – the non-abusing parent – are supported so that in turn you can support your children and ensure that they are safe, and far away from the effects of witnessing the violence.

Children will react in different ways to being brought up in a home with a violent person. Age, race, sex, culture, stage of development, and individual personality will all have an effect on a child’s responses. Most children, however, will be affected in some way by tension or by witnessing arguments, distressing behaviour or assaults – even if they do not always show this. They may feel that they are to blame, or – like you – they may feel angry, guilty, insecure, alone, frightened, powerless, or confused. They may have ambivalent feelings, both towards the abuser, and towards the non-abusing parent.

These are some of the effects of domestic violence on children:

  • They may have difficulty sleeping.
  • They may become anxious or depressed.
  • They may have nightmares or flashbacks.
  • They may complain of physical symptoms such as tummy aches.
  • They may start to wet their bed.
  • They may have temper tantrums.
  • They may behave as though they are much younger than they are.
  • They may have problems at school, or may start truanting.
  • They may become aggressive.
  • They may internalise their distress and withdraw from other people.
  • They may have a lowered sense of self-worth.
  • Older children may start to use alcohol or drugs.
  • They may begin to self-harm by taking overdoses or cutting themselves.
  • They may develop an eating disorder.

Violence may also interfere with your children’s social relationships: they may feel unable to invite friends round (or may be prevented from doing so by the abuser) out of shame, fear, or concern about what their friends may see. They may feel guilty, and think the violence is their fault, or that they ought to be able to stop it in some way. There can be an impact on school attendance and achievement: some children will stay home in an attempt to protect their mother, or because they are frightened what may happen if they go out. Worry, disturbed sleep and lack of concentration can all affect school work and everyday activities.

The 25th November is the International Day of Elimination of Violence against Women (16 Days of Action). The 16 Days of Action mark the links between violence against women and human rights and runs from 25 November to 10 December.

If you would like to fundraise in advance by holding a bake sale, maybe get a few others involved and stage a competition with a raffle then please notify f.connelly@womensaid.org.uk to discuss some ideas of your own and to request a fundraising pack c/o Women’s Aid, PO Box Bristol 391, BS99 7WS (Registered Charity No. 1054154)

[1] Life-coach & Motivator Kim Bacchus recommends her highly publicised book – Stop Hurting Me – Time to Get Out!

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