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Domestic violence or family violence is all around us. Sometimes it’s obvious and sometimes not at all. As defined by the United States Department of Justice, this kind of violence is violence or physical abuse directed toward one spouse, domestic partner or family member. Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, threaten, hurt, or injure someone. These types of violence are usually acted out by a man against a woman. Violence of this kind is more likely to happen in families with children, particularly young children from ages two to five. Of course the victim of home violence is greatly affected but so are the children of the victims who have to witness it. In some cases the children are not the victims and in other cases they are, but either way children are more vulnerable to the effects of domestic violence. Children who are victims of domestic violence have to grow up in dysfunctional situations and are then expected to live a normal adult life. Even though the only adult life they had to look up to is full of violence and wrecked relationships they are still expected by society to make a good life for themselves and their future children by dropping the cycle of domestic violence, although it isn’t as easy as it seems.
There are many different types and effects of domestic violence. Some of these types include, physical, verbal, sexual, and emotional. These types of violence can be directed at children and/or spouse. In many situations its spousal abuse, usually husband abusing the wife and the children are witnesses to violence right in there own homes. *Studies show that 3-4 million children witness some form of domestic violence annually. Witnessing this sort of violence can mean seeing actual incidents of physical and verbal abuse and it also means hearing threats or fighting from another room. A child doesn’t have to see it first hand to know what’s going on. The emotional backlash of children who witness domestic violence suffer from many effects including fear, guilt, shame, sadness, depression, and anger. The children who witness acts of violence often have greater emotional and behavioral problems than other children. Contrary to some belief’s, children who witness these episodes of violence between people they love can affect young children just as if they were the actual victims.
Like I said before, in many cases it’s the mother being abused by the father. Children who grow up watching their mother being abused grow up with a distorted vision of what a real relationship should be like. Because of domestic violence many kids grow up with the belief that using intimidation and violence over another person will get you your way. Boys who see their mother being treated with disrespect and violence learn that they can disrespect women the same way their father does. Children who are raised in this sort of environment learn that violence is an effective way to resolve conflicts and problems. Many of them repeat the violence that they see and hear just because that is all they know.
Violence affects children even if they are not the direct victims. Besides being a leading cause of injury, domestic violence takes a toll on other subtle aspects of life, such as behavioral, social, and emotional functioning. Many children living with violence struggle in school, show signs of severe stress, and have trouble making friends. A lot of times children who live under violent circumstances also experience other family conflicts such as poverty, unemployment, and substance abuse. These factors often stress out everyone in the family and that can sometimes make the violence worse.
As a child who experiences family violence grows older they have a greater risk of engaging in drug and alcohol abuse. Many teenagers suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder after going through less than pleasant things in the so called comfort of their own home. Growing up with domestic violence also leads to juvenile delinquency and it is the number one reason why children run away from home.
So when does it stop? Many of the children who live and grow up around domestic violence never get the professional help that they really need, this really makes me wonder where does it end? It has been said that perhaps violence breeds violence. The crude cycle of violence refers to the abused becoming abusers and victims becoming offenders. Diane Ehrensaft did a 20-year study ending in 2003 of children who were exposed to violence between their parents and found that those children who had been exposed were more likely to perpetrate violence against their future adult partner than the children who were not exposed to this type of violence. Another study done in 1998 concluded that childhood victimization increases the risk of criminal behavior and other mental health issues. In comparison to these control groups it is shown that abused, neglected, and children who witness domestic violence overall have more arrests as a juvenile.
It is hard for me to understand how a child who grows up seeing domestic violence and doesn’t get the help that is needed to deal with the things they’ve had to go through is able to grow up have a so called normal life and raise a family of their own. In some cases the person who was abused or has witnessed abuse can break through and realize that they never want to act like their parents did when they were young. For some, those bad memories can motivate a person to make a better life for themselves and their kids. Then there are those who aren’t able to break through the painful memories and have learned bad habits from their parents so the only way that they know how to raise a family is through violence.
It’s sad because society expects people to start over and make good for themself no matter what one has been through. Unfortunately it isn’t that easy. Children who have to suffer through domestic violence growing up have the odds going against them. They are projected to become alcoholics and drug users. Many of them may become depressed, and bitter about their childhood. Domestic violence is a day to day battle, literally and figuratively. It starts from square one, the first generation and their children. If they can break the cycle maybe there will be hope.
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