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Domestic Violence Between Parents Impacts Children Too

 Posted on January 19, 2016 in Domestic Violence

domestic violence, Naperville family law attorneyDomestic violence is, unfortunately, a major problem in America. Each year, attorneys and court officials deal with millions of domestic violence-related cases, and experts say many more instances of domestic violence go unreported. While we tend to focus on the victim of the violence and the perpetrator, there is a commonly a third party affected by domestic violence and abuse: children. Despite the commonly-held belief that children are not aware of every situation taking place between their parents or guardians, studies show that even young children are aware of and affected by domestic violence taking place in their home. For children, the effects of being around domestic violence are very serious and can last a lifetime.

“It does have effects,” says the chief executive officer of America’s National Domestic Violence Hotline. “No matter how much you believe it is hidden from them or out of sight, children know what is happening and they worry and they stress.” In fact, recent research shows that 90 percent of children who live in homes where domestic violence occurs are aware that the violence is taking place. Experts and advocates are alarmed by this number, and say that means children in these unfortunate situations are constantly dealing with stress and anxiety, among other issues. Therapists say that stress and anxiety in children can lead to anger, sadness, rage, confusion, and even guilt. “Some kids blame themselves” says one social worker experienced in domestic violence cases. Experts indicate that parents often believe believe that despite the violence occurring in their home, their children are better off being raised by two parents versus being removed from the violent situation. Advocates and experts believe that, in almost every case, removing a child from the violence is the right choice. While breaking apart a family may be tough, the effects of domestic violence on children far outweigh the separation process.

Effects on Boys

Domestic violence affects boys and girls in different ways. Experts suggest boys who grow up around domestic violence are more likely to be aggressive, and will channel their feelings through dangerous outlets like fighting or drugs. As boys get older, they will be more likely to join a gang, engage in high-risk behavior, or become drug abusers.

Effects on Girls

Being around domestic violence adversely affects young girls as well. Advocates say that girls tend to become more sexually promiscuous or turn to drug use. Girls are especially likely to internalize their pain over the abuse and may blame themselves or become depressed. Self-harm is also a possible outcome.

For both boys and girls, there is another potential consequence of being around domestic violence. “Co-occurrence,” a situation where both a spouse and the children of the household are being abused, happens frequently. If children are not already victims of the violence, they have a significantly higher chance of becoming victims if one of their parents or guardians is already receiving abuse. According to domestic violence organization Safe Horizon, co-occurrence could happen in as many as 60 percent of all domestic violence cases in America.

Research also indicates that facing adverse childhood experiences, like domestic violence, can have lasting effects and can make adulthood more difficult. Unemployment, poverty, physical and mental health problems, and homelessness are all reported outcomes of facing abuse and other challenges as a child. “Those adverse childhood experiences can include other things, but witnessing domestic violence is a big one,” says the CEO of Safe Horizons. “The more negative experiences you have as a child, the greater risks of those negative outcomes as an adult.”

The Cycle of Violence Continues

Experts say that in addition to protecting the future of America’s children, there is another very important reason that domestic violence awareness continue to be spread. Violence, experts believe, is a learned behavior, so children who grow up surrounded by domestic abuse are more likely to become abusers themselves. The National Domestic Violence Hotline reports that men who experience violence during childhood are twice as likely to be violent with their spouse or partner, and are also significantly more likely to abuse their children. “For boys, there may be identification with the abuser.” says an expert. “They may come to believe that is what masculinity looks like.” For girls, experts say, the consequences are serious as well. Girls identify with their mothers, and researchers say it is very difficult for girls to identify how they want to be treated in their relationships if they saw their mother being abused.

Advocates say that curbing domestic violence in America starts with children. “No one is born abusive, and all bullies start out as victims,” says a California psychotherapist. “Children do not have the life experience, or the intellectual and emotional capacities to comprehend why dad beats mom, or vice versa.”

If you are a victim of domestic abuse, or have been wrongly accused of domestic violence, the qualified Naperville family law attorneys at the Pesce Law Group, P.C., are here to help. Our team is skilled at handling even the most delicate of family law matters, including domestic violence victim protection. Whether you are a victim of violence, or accused of committing domestic violence, our team of attorneys will work tirelessly to ensure a beneficial outcome for you and your children. Call 630-352-2240 or visit us online to schedule your free consultation with one of our attorneys today.


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