Another Reason to Leave Your Abuser: The Effect of Witnessing Domestic Violence On Your Children
Victims of domestic violence stick with their abusers for a plethora of reasons, ranging from the belief that things will get better, to the fear that their abuser will hunt them down if they try to leave. Many have financial motivations for staying or lack support networks to help them get out of abusive relationships. Whatever the reasons for staying, the reasons for leaving are weighty indeed. One of the most compelling reasons for parents is the impact of exposure to violence on their children.
What is Domestic Violence?
While some believe the term “domestic violence” refers strictly to physical abuse, the Domestic Abuse Project calls it a pattern or system of abuse in a relationship designed to maintain or gain control of someone else. While for many this is physical violence, for others it can be psychological or emotional abuse, sexual abuse, or even financial or technological abuse.
Caregivers are Critical
Studies suggest that children who witness domestic violence suffer much more deeply than those who are exposed to other types of violence. That is because it is particularly painful to believe that one’s caregiver is in harm’s way. Because children look to their caregivers to satisfy their basic needs and to model behavior, not to mention to provide love and support, it is extremely detrimental to children to witness domestic violence.
Children and Abuse
Research indicates that over 10 million children across the country witness domestic violence—either by seeing or hearing altercations– in a typical year, and those children are at a much greater risk of experiencing abuse themselves than children who are not witnesses of such violence. Furthermore, children who see or hear this type of activity experience significant psychological impacts, including:
- Cognitive delays;
- Delays in emotional growth;
- Personal aggression toward others;
- Hyper arousal;
- Behavior issues;
- Health issues;
- Anxiety disorders.
More specifically, witnesses to domestic violence tend to experience sleep issues, difficulty concentrating, low frustration levels, and eating disorders. Even infants are impacted, and are unable to self-soothe. They often display other disorders that can result in reduced weight gain. Preschoolers tend to be more withdrawn and fearful, while older children tend to score over 12 percentage points lower academically. Boys traditionally become more disobedient and aggressive, while girls experience greater levels of anxiety and depression.
Frightening Long Term Impacts
Sadly, children who witness domestic violence frequently grow up to become abusers or to choose abusers in their lives. The evidence correlating childhood experiences to dating violence and involvement in domestic violence as adults is overwhelming.
If you are a victim of domestic violence, now is the time to take action to protect yourself and your children. For legal assistance, contact the Miami domestic violence attorneys at the Law Office of Julia Kefalinos. Her passion is to fight for the rights of the vulnerable, and she will do what it takes to ensure your security.