Children – the invisible victims of domestic violence

Posted on July 30, 2012

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The saying, “like father, like son” perhaps rings no truer than when a young child has witnessed violence between parents. Children are often the invisible victims of domestic violence, yet they carry the emotional scars with them for a lifetime.

A child stores information as he grows up, and will reflect all that he has seen and lived through in his future actions. No matter how he may fear his father or feel sorry for his mother, witnessing violence may well lead him to repeat history, this time as a perpetrator or an active victim.

  • Child witnesses are victims, too

Domestic violence against women and its long-term effects on abuse victims has been the subject of many studies that look at the physical and psychological health implications, even  long after abuse has ended. But there are far fewer studies about the impact that this type of violence has on children who see their mothers being abused.

Witnessing aggression – of the physical or emotional type – against a mother may have  tremendously negative repercussions for a child, including physical, cognitive, social and emotional disorders.

Not only does the child suffer the trauma of witnessing violence towards his mother, but he’s often in a home where neither parent can provide for his basic physical or emotional needs.

According to Dr. Maria Angeles Espinosa Bayal, Professor of Evolutionary and Educational Psychology at the UNAM (Universidad Autónomade Madrid), the main factors affecting  children who grow up in violent environments (as direct victims or as witnesses) include:

child abuse Children   the invisible victims of domestic violence

Not only does a child suffer the trauma of witnessing violence towards his mother, but he’s often in a home where neither parent can provide for his basic physical or emotional needs.

  • Incapacity of the mother to take care of her child’s basic needs because of the physical and emotional situation she is in. This can result in actual negligence and abandonment, or the child suffering the effects of emotional abandonment.
  • Incapacity of the aggressor to establish a warm, close and affectionate relation with his children because of his own aggressiveness. His children may reject and fear him because they view him as dangerous. This alienation from the father figure can plague a child’s relationships when he becomes an adult.

Some consequences of domestic violence in children include:

  • Difficulty establishing social interaction with peers.
  • Tendency to react violently when he feels challenged in any way; problems with impulse control.
  • Difficulty picking up on social cues and understanding the acceptable codes to live in society; establishing and respecting boundaries.
  • A tendency to incorrectly perceive hostility from others.
  • Lack of empathy, which comes directly from the lack of empathy of his parents towards him.
  • Difficulty expressing emotions, or understanding the emotions of others.
  • Low self-esteem.
  • A sense of vulnerability.
  • A tendency not to take on new challenges or tasks for fear of failure and frustration.

abuse 410x271 Children   the invisible victims of domestic violence

All the experiences that a kid goes through in his first years of life are going to mark his behavior as an adult. Children who are raised in a relatively secure atmosphere will be more likely to be functional and loving. But those children who were witnesses to mistreatment might learn that this is regular, normal interaction in a couple.

All the experiences that a kid goes through in his first years of life are going to mark his behavior as an adult. Children who are raised in a relatively secure atmosphere will be more likely to be functional and loving. But those children who were witnesses to mistreatment might learn that this is regular, normal interaction in a couple.

When the boy grows up, he tends to see the world from this perspective. He may not be conscious that he has learned the wrong behavioral pattern. He may think that the world is as he has experienced it and he might not question his own behavior, or the way he reacts in front of loved ones.

Witnessing abuse may also affect a man’s choice of girlfriend or wife. In adult relationships, people generally reproduce the patterns they learned growing up. This is why so many men who are sons of abusers repeat their fathers’ behavior with daughters of mistreated mothers – girls also learn behaviors from their abused mothers. Both members of the couple are simply mimicking the behavior they grew up with.

  • Factors for recovery of the invisible victim

violence2 410x287 Children   the invisible victims of domestic violence

Boys need to learn what a normal, healthy family relationship is, and to understand what was wrong with their father’s behavior. Girls need to learn that they do not deserve and should not expect the abuse they saw their mothers endure. (Shutterstock photos)

A child’s ability to recover from being an invisible victim of abuse depends on several variables, including:

  • The amount of time the child was exposed to violence in the home.
  • The type of violence that his mother suffered: physical, emotional, direct or indirect.
  • The age of the child when he was exposed to the domestic violence.
  • The relationship of the child with the aggressor (father, grandfather, uncle, step-father).

Depending on the above-mentioned variables, the child will need professional therapy. Boys need to learn what a normal, healthy family relationship is, and to understand what was wrong with their father’s behavior. Girls need to learn that they do not deserve and should not expect the abuse they saw their mothers endure. If, as children or adults, these invisible victims can find the love and support from another family member or the parents of a close friend, for example, and a positive therapeutic environment, repeating their parents’ mistakes can be avoided.

Read more: http://www.voxxi.com/children-domestic-violence/#ixzz22L1fCenb

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