Each year in this country, some three to four million children are at risk of exposure to domestic violence. Most are the children of women abused by their male partners. Even when children are not physically abused themselves, they can still carry serious and lasting emotional scars of domestic abuse.
What it Means to Witness Domestic Abuse
For a child, exposure to this invasive form of violence takes many forms. Children may:
- See episodes of physical, mental, or sexual abuse firsthand
- Hear threats of the sounds of physical altercations from nearby
- Observe the aftermath of domestic violence – physical injuries, tears, torn clothing, and objects broken in anger
- Become aware of the tension inherent in a place where domestic violence exists
How Domestic Abuse Impacts Children
Children who witness domestic violence in any of these ways loses their sense of security. They may feel anxious and tense, wondering when the next episode will happen. Many feel responsible to protect the victimized family member, the siblings, and others in the home.
When they are unable to stop the abuse, they can feel guilty, powerless, and even worthless. Some children even begin to resent any family member who seems to “trigger” the abuse. Their world becomes unpredictable, chaotic, and stressful.
Behaviors of Children Exposed to Domestic Abuse
Children who are unable to stand up to an abuser or protect the victim act out in different ways. Exposure to domestic violence leads to physical symptoms, emotional behaviors, and cognitive problems that arise in childhood and potentially carry into adulthood.
- Developmental delays
- Difficulty concentrating
- Stomach troubles
- Trouble sleeping
These children may be more prone to violence themselves, unleashing their own anger and pain upon others. As teens, children exposed to violence are more likely to be defiant, skip school, and make risky choices, including experimenting with drugs and alcohol. Children growing up around domestic abuse learn dangerous messages about love and romantic relationships and may repeat abusive dynamics with their own partners as adults.
Ending the Cycle of Domestic Violence
There is hope for children who have seen the trauma of domestic abuse firsthand. To encourage a positive outcome, it is crucial to create a safe space for the child, away from the violence. As they move forward, experts say three things are good indicators of a bright future: a good support system with caring adults, good self-esteem, and healthy bonds with friends.
Children should never hide or deny what they have seen. Counseling is beneficial for children exposed to domestic violence, giving them a safe space to share their experience.
Bridgewater Domestic Violence Lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. Advocate for Victims of Relationship Violence
The impact of domestic violence on the entire family can never be understated. If a spouse or partner has hurt you, take steps to protect you and your children. At Lyons & Associates, P.C., our team of caring and experienced Bridgewater domestic violence lawyers is ready to advocate for you.
We take every legal action available to stop abuse and help you move forward in a positive direction. If you have questions about the next step to take to end your abusive marriage, call 908-575-9777 or contact us online. We offer discreet, no-obligation consultations to empower you to make the good decisions for you and your family.
With offices in Morristown and Somerville, your Bridgewater domestic violence lawyers are proud to advocate for clients throughout New Jersey including the communities of Somerset, Woodbridge, Morristown, Parsippany, Rockaway, Short Hills, Chatham, Randolph, Madison and Morris Plains.