Domestic violence is a form of abuse that is often misunderstood by those outside of the abusive relationship. Some of the most commonly neglected victims in domestic abuse scenarios are the children -- whether they suffer direct violence at the hands of family members, or are just witnesses to the abuse, the trauma of living in a home where domestic violence occurs has lasting effects on children which they often carry through their entire lives. Fortunately, there are ways to help children in these situations, but first we must understand exactly how they are being negatively affected.
Effects of Domestic Violence on Children
First, there is the most obvious effect -- children living in homes with spousal or partner abuse are 15 times more likely to suffer concurrent child abuse. When a child is a direct victim of physical or sexual abuse, it effects the way they interact and adapt to life both in and outside of the home. These children are at a notably higher risk for psychological and emotional problems later in life. Far too often, abused children grow up to become adults with mood and personality disorders, addictions, and even physical health issues.
The much less talked about victim in domestic violence situations is the child who witnesses abuse between his or her caregivers. Although this child may not have been directly beaten or neglected, they have absolutely been abused and can, just as the children described above, have lasting effects from their years in an abusive home.
Often, a child’s primary caregiver can become emotionally unavailable and unresponsive, causing the child to develop a primal fear of harm or abandonment. Exposure to violence at this young age can also cause the child’s brain to rewire in a way that results in excessive worry and anxiety, lack of empathy, compulsive lying, easy frustration, emotional isolation, and poor judgement, among other negative effects.
How to Help Children Exposed to Violence
Luckily, there are a number of resources available to help with these issues. Witnessing or suffering abuse as a child is not an automatic sentence to a life of psychological problems. If the child is removed from the abusive situation in time, and the psychological fallout dealt with, a victim can grow into a functional and happy adult.
It is important to encourage these children to discuss the violence they have witnessed or suffered. It is crucial that these children be monitored for changes in their routine or personality, and that professional counseling be sought when necessary. Children need to be given a sense of normalcy and safety as soon as possible after exiting the abusive home.
Some important points to remember:
- Be available to talk about the child’s trauma as often as he or she is comfortable with it. Be okay with discussing the same story repeatedly as the child works through what they have experienced.
- Ensure that the child feels safe, and that they understand that they will not have to return to the unsafe environment ever again. Reassure them that their abuser will not be able to harm them or those they love any longer.
- Encourage them to speak of their fears, and work through those fears with them by reminding them of the steps you have taken to ensure their safety.
If handled carefully, an abused child can begin to understand that their abuse was a painful period in their life from which they have escaped, and as such can adapt and evolve to a new life free of fear and pain.
Our Compassionate New Jersey Family Law Attorneys are Here For You
If you or someone you love is experiencing a domestic abuse situation, know that there is hope. Rozin | Golinder Law’s family law attorneys are here for you, and ready to help you and your family be safe and start your new life.
If your family has been affected by domestic violence, call our compassionate family law attorneys today at (732) 810-0034 to learn how we can keep you and your loved ones safe.