The Effects of Relationship Abuse on Children

Children / teens who see, hear, or are aware of abuse against one parent figure that is perpetrated by another parent figure are affected by that experience.

Children / teens are present during the majority of all woman abuse incidents, and are aware of 80% of occurrences even when the abused parent believes the children are not aware of what is going on.

They «witness » the violence by

  • being present,
  • hearing the violence from another room,
  • seeing bruises, black eyes, etc., on parent the next day,
  • Seeing the emotional response of the victim parent

 

IMAGINE LIVING IN A HOME WHERE, EVEN PERIODICALLY, SOME OR ALL OF THESE THINGS HAPPEN?
YOUR DAD…. YOUR MOM…,
hurts your Mom is scared of your Dad
calls your Mom nasty names sneaks around the house so Dad won’t get mad
destroys your Mom’s things tries to hide when Dad’s mad
makes your Mom cry gets hurt when she tries to protect you
hurts you, or threatens to cries a lot
hurts your pet never gets visits from her friends
gets really mad and throws things has to clean up after Dad has smashed things
smashes walls and furniture doesn’t have any money for food or treats for you and her
flashes around knives, guns or other things that could hurt you or your Mom cries or screams at night when you’re in bed, and you worry about what’s going on
says your Mom is a rotten mother thinks she deserves to be hit
says you’re a rotten kid sometimes takes it out on you when she’s mad at Dad
drives really scary when you’re in the car Let’s Dad do things you know are wrong
embarrasses your Mom in front of friends and family Won’t let you have friends over because of what Dad might do
says he loves your Mom then hurts her makes excuses for Dad’s behaviour
says he can’t control himself forgives your Dad when he cries
promises to never do it again, but then does promises to leave Dad if he ever hits you or her again, but then doesn’t
HOW WOULD YOU FEEL?

RELATIONSHIP ABUSE IN THE HOME EFFECTS CHILDREN OF ALL AGES FROM INFANTS TO TEENS. IT….

    • Means living with constant fear and anxiety
    • Means feeling powerless
    • Creates low self esteem
    • Can result in behavioural problems
    • Can result in taking on adult roles prematurely (e.g. the role of care-taker)
    • Can result in depression, self-mutilation and high risk behaviour
    • Teaches the use of violence and intimidation to get what you want
    • Desensitizes the child witnesses to violence
    • Inhibits learning of boundaries
    • Creates strong feeling of ambivalence toward both the abuser and parent victim
    • Can result in attachment disorders
    • Can result in inability to have healthy relationships as adults

POSSIBLE SYMPTOMS OF A CHILD BEING RAISED IN AN ABUSIVE HOME

0 to 5 years:

      • stomach aches, fear of the dark, sleep disturbances, bed wetting, whining, clinging, anxiety, failure to thrive

6 to 12 years:

        • seductive or manipulative behaviour, eating disturbances, distrustful of people, fear of being abandoned, difficulty concentrating in school, girls may become passive; mothers little helper, boys may become aggressive; display temper tantrums, become a bully, have a quick temper

Children from abusive homes may continue the cycle. The risk is higher if they don’t receive counseling. It is not uncommon for girls raised in abusive homes to end up in an abusive relationship as an adult and boys to become abusers.

Children may be made to feel that they are responsible for the violence that is happening in their family. After the separation, an abusive partner may continue to use the children in an attempt to maintain control.

It is important for children to understand that the violence at home is not their fault, that violence is wrong and that they have a right to express their feelings. They need to understand that it is okay to love their parents but hate the abusive behaviour. They need to learn constructive ways of dealing with their anger. Children may feel very confused and will need support to sort out and identify their feelings.

VARIABLES THAT INFLUENCE A CHILD’S REACTION TO RELATIONSHIP VIOLENCE

          Age: generally, the younger the child, the more vulnerable he or she is to the effects If a child and an adult witness the same traumatic event, children under age 11 are three times more likely to develop symptoms of stress
          Gender: Generally boys externalize the effects while girls internalize them
          Proximity: In general, the more details the child observes, the more traumatized that child can become

Infants & toddlers are most negatively affected not when they are injured themselves, but rather when they witness their primary caregiver being threatened or harmed

THERE ARE THINGS YOU CAN DO TO HELP REDUCE THE EFFECTS OF LIVING WITH ABUSE ON YOUR CHILDREN

          1. Seek help to get out of or resolve the situation, and let your children know you’re addressing the issue and not just living with it. Let them know it will stop. (If possible < necessary, take your children and go to a shelter!)
          2. Involve them in professional counselling if at all possible.
          3. Involve positive family members and friends in the life of the children so they have additional support and positive role models.
          4. Involve your children in community programs that they enjoy to ensure that their life contains &normal childhood activities” and friends their own age. This also gives them time away from the stress of the home.
          5. Let the child’s school know what is going on so that they can also keep an eye on the emotional welfare of the child and be supportive. This also means that if the abusive parent shows up at the child’s school, they are aware of the background and the school personnel can be protective of the child.

THESE ACTIONS MAY BE DIFFICULT TO DO BECAUSE AN ABUSER USUALLY SEES OUTSIDE INFLUENCES AS THREATENING TO HIS CONTROL OVER YOU AND HIS FAMILY. IT IS IN THE ABUSER’S BEST INTEREST TO KEEP YOU ISOLATED FROM FRIENDS, FAMILY AND THE COMMUNITY SO THERE IS NO CHALLENGE TO HIS CONTROL. HOWEVER IF YOU ARE ABLE TO MANAGE TO PROVIDE THESE SUPPORTS TO YOUR CHILDREN, THE LONG TERM EFFECTS ON THEM OF LIVING WITH ABUSE WILL BE MINIMIZED.