Effects of Domestic Violence on Children

Effects of Domestic Violence on Children

The tragic reality is that any time a mother is abused by her partner; the children are also affected in both overt and subtle ways. What hurts the mother hurts the children. Children do not have to be physically or verbally abused to be injured by domestic violence. Hearing or seeing the abuse of one parent by the other takes a huge toll on the children. Even if they don’t see the beating, they see the bruises, broken bones, and abrasions. In homes where domestic violence occurs, fear, instability, and confusion replace the love, comfort, and nurturing the children need. These children live in constant fear of physical harm from the person who is supposed to care for and protect them.

While many children experience difficulties resulting from their exposure to violence, many children appear to cope with the experiences and show fewer problems than in comparison to other children. This is likely because the level of violence in families and children’s exposure to it can vary greatly. Further research is needed in order to draw blanket conclusions about the effects of domestic violence on children.

Children who witness domestic violence display various emotional, physical, and behavioral disturbances.

  • Witnessing parental abuse produces feelings of anger, fear, guilt, shame, confusion, and helplessness. When the community fails to offer protection and support, children also feel undervalued and worthless.
  • Children may express these emotions as withdrawal, low self-esteem, nightmares, regressive behavior, or aggression against peers, family members, and property.
  • Child witnesses to domestic violence often suffer physical problems, such as bed-wetting, insomnia, colds and diarrhea.
  • Children often suffer developmental delays in verbal, cognitive, and motor abilities when they live in homes with domestic violence. Learning disabilities are common.

Domestic violence disrupts children’s lives.

  • Children’s living arrangements are often disrupted when a parent is fleeing the abuser. Moving to unfamiliar surroundings can add to the stress.
  • Children and their mother may suffer financially when they flee the abusive parent.
  • School performance may suffer if the child is distracted or tries to remain at home to protect the mother.
  • Many children in families where domestic violence has occurred appear to be “parentified” or “spousified.” They are forced to grow up faster than peers, often taking on the responsibility of cooking, cleaning, and caring for younger children while the mother attempts to deal with the trauma.
  • Children may also be isolated. Typical activities such as having friends over to their house may not be possible due to the chaotic atmosphere. However, school performance is not always obviously affected. Children may respond by being overachievers.

Working with Children Living with Domestic Violence

Grandville : Cent Proverbes

An image of a child being spanked by a man while in the background a woman is being hit by another man with a stick. Image via Wikipedia

 

The published research on children’s exposure to domestic violence focuses largely on two aspects of their experience: the trauma of witnessing physical assaults against their mothers, and the tension produced by living with a high level of conflict between their parents (e.g. Rossman, Hughes, & Rosenberg, 2000). As important as these factors are, they are in fact only two aspects of many complex problems that typically pervade the children’s daily life. The bulk of these difficulties have their roots in the fact that the children are living with a batterer present in their home. The parenting characteristics commonly observed in batterers have implications for the children’s emotional and physical well-being, their relationships with their mothers and siblings, and the development of their belief systems.

 

The Batterer’s Parenting Style

  • Authoritarian
  • Under involved
  • Undermining of mother’s authority
  • Undermining of mother’s parenting in multiple ways
  • Limited sense of age-appropriateness
  • Use the children as weapons
  • Good under observation
  • Tend to see children as personal possessions
  • Rarely improve post-separation (typically get worse)
  • High risk of child abuse

 

Batterers’ Risk to Abuse Children

Physical Abuse

  • 50-70% of batterers abuse children
  • 7 times more likely than an non-batterer
  • Correlated with level of physical abuse of partner
  • Other indicators: level of control, substance abuse, rigid belief-system, abused as a child

 

Sexual Abuse

  • 2-5% of batterers will sexually abuse children
  • 6 times more likely than a non-batterer
  • Correlated with presence of violence towards partner but not with severity
  • Other indicators: high entitlement, self-centered, use of children to meet his own needs, manipulative, seeing the children as personal possessions, substance abuse

 

Psychological Abuse

  • Generally present to some degree

 

From: MCADSV New Service Provider Training Manual and Resource Guide who cites:

The Parenting of Men Who Batter, and The batterer as Parent: Addressing the Impact of Domestic Violence on Family Dynamics by Lundy Bancroft, © 2002. Published in Court Review, Vol. 36, No. 2, 44-39.

DVIP: Behavioral Characteristics of a Domestic Violence Batterer

Behavioral Characteristics of a Domestic Violence Batterer

 

Batterers are found in all socioeconomic, educational, ethnic, racial, and age groups.

 

Batterers

  • Use psychological, verbal, and physical abuse, including sexual abuse.
  • Engage in excessive minimization and denial.

 

The batterer is characterized by:

  • Poor impulse control, limited tolerance for frustration, explosive temper – rage. Constantly demonstrating but often successfully masking anger.
  • Stress disorders and psychosomatic complaints; sophistication of symptoms and success at masking dysfunction vary with social and educational levels.
  • Emotional dependency – subject to secret depressions known only to family.
  • Limited capacity for delayed reinforcement – very “now” oriented.
  • Insatiable ego needs and qualities of childlike narcissism (not generally detectable to people outside family group).
  • Low self-esteem; perceives unachieved ideals and goals for self; disappointment in career, even if successful by others’ standards.
  • Qualities which suggest great potential for change and improvement; i.e., makes frequent “promises” for the future.
  • Perception of self as having poor social skills; describing relationship with mate as the closest he has ever known while remaining in contact with his family of origin.
  • Accusations against mate, jealousy, voicing great fear of abandonment or “being cheated on,” possessive, controlling, hovering behavior.
  • Fearfulness that partner and/or children will abandon; fear of being alone.
  • Containment of mate and employment of espionage tactics against her (checking mileage/times, errands); cleverness depends on level of sophistication.
  • Violating others’ personal boundaries; accepts no blame for failure (marital, familial, or occupational) or for violent acts.
  • Belief that forcible behavior aimed at securing the family nucleus is for the good of the family.
  • Absence of guilt on an emotional level even after intellectual recognition.
  • Generational history of abuse.
  • Frequently participating in pecking order battering.
  • Assaultive skills which improve with age and experience (increase in danger potential and lethality risks to family members over time).
  • Demanding and oftentimes assaultive role in sexual activities; sometimes punishes with abstinence; occasionally experiencing impotence.
  • Increasingly assaultive behavior when the mate is pregnant – pregnancy often marks the first assault.
  • Exerting control over mate by threatening homicide and/or suicide. Often attempts one or both when partners separate – known to complete either or both.
  • Frequently using children as “pawns” and exerting power and control through custody issues; may kidnap children or hold them hostage.

 

Profile of MALE Abuser

Abusers may have some or all of the following characteristics:

 

  • Excessively jealous
  • Isolates victim (she may rarely go anywhere alone; visitors rarely allowed)
  • Controls victim (makes all decisions; demands accounting of time & actions)
  • Denies beatings or minimizes severity
  • May be more violent when she is pregnant or soon after birth
  • Blames victim for his abusive behavior
  • Uses verbal abuse with physical abuse (insults, mind games, etc.)
  • If victim leaves, he does whatever it takes to get her back (apologizes, sends flowers, cries, begs forgiveness, begs her to come home, promises to get counseling)
  • When victim returns, promises are systematically broken
  • Jekyll and Hyde personality
  • From a dysfunctional family
  • Low/No self-esteem (builds himself up at victim’s expense)
  • Thinks he’s never wrong and never lies – knows everything and everyone
  • Believes myths about abuse
  • Strongly believes in traditional sex roles
  • Feels persecuted – maybe mentally ill
  • Treats victim like a servant/very demanding
  • Must always have his way
  • Reacts violently to criticism
  • Preaches his own religion
  • Is very creative, imaginative and artistic
  • Is capable of fooling untrained authorities (doctors, lawyers, judges)
  • Is in control of his abuse (can – and does – become suddenly civil if someone walks in on the abuse; will only injure to a certain point – that which will ensure compliance)

Profile of FEMALE Victim

Victims may have some or all of the following characteristics:

 

  • Socially isolated – lonely
  • Blames herself for the beatings
  • Accepts responsibility for her abuser’s behavior
  • Feels she has no power or control
  • Feels ambivalent or confused
  • Embarrassed to admit she is being abused or that she is in a violent, abusive relationship – denial
  • Low/No Self-esteem
  • Believes she cannot survive alone
  • Is highly stressed – terrified – fighting to stay alive
  • Exhibits stress-related physical ailments or problems
  • Believes myths about abuse
  • Denies her anger over the abuse – but explodes over minor irritations
  • Exhibits depression
  • Is fearful of many things, like making a mistake
  • Believes in traditional sex roles
  • Puts needs/feelings of others far above her own
  • Mood is determined by abuser’s disposition
  • Unable to make a decision without abuser’s approval
  • Believes that nothing can ever help her
  • Does what it takes to survive – lies, denies, defends abuser
  • Endures additional abuse to protect children
  • Prays silently

 

 

 

 

 

Domestic Violence: An Introduction

Domestic violence and emotional abuse are behaviors used by one person in a relationship to control the other. Partners may be married or not married; heterosexual, gay, or lesbian; living together, separated or dating. Violence takes many forms and can happen all the time or once in a while. Abuse is not an accident. It does not happen because someone was stressed out, drinking, or using drugs. Abusers have learned to abuse, using their power to get what they want. The abuse may be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, and psychological.

Domestic violence crosses all ethnic, racial, age, national origin, sexual orientation, religious, and socioeconomic lines. Domestic violence can happen to anybody. In fact, studies suggest that one fifth to one third of all women will be physically assaulted by a partner or ex partner during their lifetime. In heterosexual relationships, 95% of all victims are female and 95% of all perpetrators are male. In same-sex relationships, domestic violence happens with the same statistical frequency as in heterosexual relationships.

“Domestic violence is a pattern of controlling behaviors, some of which are criminal, that includes but is not limited to physical assaults, sexual assaults, emotional abuse, isolation, economic coercion, threats, stalking, and intimidation. These behaviors are used by the batterer in an effort to control the intimate partner. The behavior may be directed at others with the effect of controlling the intimate partner.” Batter Intervention Standards for the State of Michigan, 4.1 (January 20, 1999).


Domestic Violence Victims

Anyone can be a victim! Victims can be any age, sex, race, culture, religion, sexual orientation, education, employment, or marital status. Although both men and women can be abused, most victims are women. Children in homes where there is domestic violence are more likely to be abused and/or neglected. Most children in these homes know about violence. Even if a child is not physically harmed, they may have emotional and behavior problems. NOBODY DESERVES TO BE ABUSED! THE ONLY PERSON RESPONSIBLE FOR THE ABUSE IS THE ABUSER!

Domestic Abusers

There is no “typical” abuser. In public, they may appear friendly and loving to their partner and family. They often only abuse behind closed doors. They also try to hide the abuse by causing injuries that can be hidden and do not need medical attention. Abusers often have low self-esteem. They do not take responsibility for their actions. They often blame the victim for causing the violence. In most cases, men abuse female victims.

Survivor vs. Victim

In most places, we use the term “survivor” due to our emphasis on empowerment advocacy. This happens when the advocate offers support, resources, advocacy, information, and education.

This is a way of recognizing strength, courage, and survival strategies of domestic violence and sexual assault survivors.

Not all women who have experienced domestic or sexual violence see themselves as “survivors.” Remember: Domestic violence and sexual assault is something that happens to individuals; it does not define who they are.

 

We are a MOVEMENT and our work is different than that of traditional social services in that we:

  • Focus on survivors’ strengths
  • Do not believe that we are the experts in their lives
  • Are survivor-driven, not service driven
  • Understand that violence can happen to any of us
  • Are non-directive in our approach to working with survivors

Instead of viewing survivors as sick or pathological, we believe that survivors are simply reacting in adaptive ways to oppressive societal conditions, restrictive sex roles, and the abusive intimate partners in their lives.

MCADSV New Service Provider training Manual and Resource Guide (May 2006).