Domestic violence is never okay, but it takes on an even more sinister edge when children live in the home where the abuse is taking place. Too many adults adopt an out of sight out of mind type of process, believing that if they save their abuse for when the child is not in the room, all will be okay. Children are more perceptive than you think, and the damage that can be done to them over the course of a long, violent relationship is almost untold. It is not just seeing the abuse take place that can have an effect on them, as simply hearing it or perceiving that it is happening is more than enough to cause all sorts of emotional issues that can affect them for their entire lives.
Children need a safe, healthy environment in order to develop in way that is truly natural. That becomes impossible when they are constantly in fear of the next violent event. It only takes one witnessing of a violent act (physical or emotional) for the wheels to be set in motion. If your child does witness something, either visually or by hearing it, they will start to become fearful almost immediately. Even if they do not directly witness any abuse, they will pick up on the aftermath. They will want to know why mommy has bruises or is constantly crying, and they will most certainly pick up on any tension in the home or when the parents are together.
Children may not be able to tell you exactly what they are feeling, but their actions will almost certainly make it apparent that they are suffering. You might find that they have difficulty getting to sleep, or that they flinch at the slightest little sound. They may become overly needy, and may also resort to tantrums that were never there before. They may try to act out so that the abuse is geared towards them or they may become overly clingy to the abuser to assure their own safety. There are all kinds of different signs that children will display that are totally out of character, and that are a sign of them being troubled by the abusive behavior of one parent or the other.
Keep in mind that these behaviors are not solely restricted to when they are at home. If your child starts acting out at school or at a friend’s home, it is not necessarily because they are just going through a phase. If left untreated, the problems that children encounter when living in a home where there is domestic violence will continue to grow, and will affect them in their adult life. The fact of the matter is that children mimic what they see and hear from their parent’s, and if what they are seeing is abusive, chances are the cycle of violence will continue with them.
It is important that the abuser and any children in the home extricate themselves from such situations. Both may find that talking to a professional therapist helps them get over the emotional stress of living in such a horrific situation.
Also know that if the authorities are alerted by the child’s school, a friend, or the child themselves, that often the children will be taken from BOTH parents. They will be taken from the abuser for obvious reasons, but they will often be taken from the victim because of “failure to protect”. This is where the victim did not take adequate steps to remove the child from the abuse. Often, when the victim is in therapy trying to figure out a way to get out, they are more likely to keep their children. This is because the authorities see the victim as trying to protect their children.
If your children are in this situation, please call to set up an appointment. Their safety (and yours) cannot wait!
If you are looking for therapy in Long Beach for you or your child, please give me a call to ask me a question or to set up an appointment.