Alarming Effects of Children’s Exposure to Domestic Violence

Dear Priscilla Bennett Friends,

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and I want to bring attention to the effects of children’s exposure to domestic violence and the significance of it. Blake Griffin Edwards who wrote this article, says domestic violence takes many forms including chronic arguing and yelling, controlling behaviors, threats and intimidation, threats of suicide or murder, threats involving weapons and serious injuries and fatal assaults. There is always a destructive undercurrent of power and control.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported that in homes where violence between partners occurs, there is a 45% to 60% chance of child abuse, a rate 15% more than the average. Even when they are not physically attacked, children witness 68% to 80% domestic assaults taking a toll on them. The psychological aftermath of exposure to domestic violence can include fear of harm or abandonment, excessive worry or sadness, guilt, inability to experience empathy, or guilt, habitual lying, low frustration tolerance, emotional distancing, poor judgment, shame, and fear about the future.

The attention given, emotions felt, and memories imprinted onto a child’s brain in moments of stress become linked together and tainted—feelings, beliefs and choices in relationships and so many other facets of life. These children are victims.

Children exposed to domestic violence are more likely than their peers to experience a wide range of difficulties, from anger and oppositional behavior, to fear, low self-worth and withdrawal, to poor sibling, peer and social relationships. Studies have found evidence of much higher rates of pro-violence attitudes, rigid stereotypical gender beliefs involving male privilege, animal abuse, bullying, assault, property destruction and substance abuse.

Witnessing domestic violence is an experience sufficiently intense enough to precipitate posttraumatic stress in children. Children who are also physically or sexually abused are at a higher risk for emotional and psychological problems than those who witness such violence and are not physically or sexually abused.

Unfortunately, meaningful intervention occurs only after a child has endured direct and continued exposure and the damage is done. We need to find ways to more effectively intervene within our families, schools and communities to instigate help and healing to end this plight.

In my novel SOMETHING TO BE BRAVE FOR, the pattern of child abuse is seen through Katie in her childhood to marrying her abusive husband that her parents picked for her and to breaking free of it. She is determined to break the cycle of abuse and live free with her daughter saving her child from the effects of domestic violence.

Take good care of yourselves,