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The Child Survivor

Every year, millions of children witness violence in their homes. Seeing or hearing violence among family members hurts children in many ways; they do not have to be hit to feel the pain of violence.

STATISTICS

  • More babies are now born with birth defects as a result of the mother being battered during pregnancy than from the combination of all diseases and illnesses for which we now immunize pregnant women. (March of Dimes Report, compiled by KCSDV, 2000)
  • 40-60% of men who abuse women also abuse children.
  • Between 3.3 and 10 million American children annually witness assaults by one parent against another.
  • Studies have found that child abuse occurs in up to 70% of families that experience domestic violence.
  • 5% of abusive fathers threaten during visitation to kill the mother, 34% threaten to kidnap their children, and 25% threaten to hurt their children.-NCADV

EVERY YEAR, MILLIONS OF CHILDREN ARE THE DIRECT TARGETS OF VIOLENCE.

They may suffer from:

  • physical abuse (hitting, burning, etc.)
  • sexual abuse (incest, exposure to pornography, etc.)
  • emotional abuse (put downs, threats, rejection)
  • neglect (lack of attention, healthy foods, medications, etc.)

Thousands of children end up seriously injured or killed.

WHAT IS IT LIKE FOR CHILDREN TO GROW UP IN A VIOLENT HOME?

Chaos - children may never know what to expect at home. Their parents' mood can change instantly from loving to enraged.

Danger - often, they're the intended victim of one or both parents. Other times, they get caught in the middle and are hurt, or killed, by accident.

Fear & Tension - daily violence and anger create a living nightmare for children. They may grow up being afraid of everything and trusting no one.

Confusion - children often receive mixed messages. At school it is wrong to hit, but at home "might makes right."

Isolation - often, abusive parents shut off the family from the outside world. Children may be withdrawn from their peers and other adults.

Hopelessness - children often blame themselves for the violence. But, they may feel powerless to prevent, stop or escape from it.


HOW KIDS MIGHT BE AFFECTED

Emotionally:

  • guilt - feel responsible for the violence
  • shame - this doesn't happen anywhere else
  • fear - of expressing feelings (especially anger), of divorce or separation, of injury
  • confusion - conflicted loyalties (love/hate towards the batterer)
  • anger - about the violence, the chaos
  • depressed/helpless/powerless - to change things
  • grief - over family losses
  • burdened - over inappropriate role as caretaker, parent substitute

Behaviorally: (reactions often in opposite extremes)

  • act out vs. withdraw
  • overachiever vs. underachiever
  • refusal to go to school
  • caretaking (taking care of and worrying about the need of others much more than self)
  • aggressive/passive
  • rigid defenses - aloof, sarcastic, rigid, blaming, defensive
  • attention-seeking behaviors
  • bedwetting, nightmares
  • chaotic - hard to set limits with them

Physically:

  • somatic complaints - headaches, stomach aches, asthma, etc.
  • nervous, anxious, short attention span
  • tired, lethargic
  • sick often with colds, flu, etc.
  • personal hygiene neglected
  • regression in development tasks - bedwetting, thumb-sucking, clingy, etc.
  • no reaction, at times, to physical pain

Socially:

  • isolated - without friends or distant in relationships
    relationships with friends may start intensely, end abruptly
  • difficulty trusting others
  • poor conflict resolution skills
  • may be excessively socially involved (overcompensate or to stay away from home)
  • may be passive with others and/or seek power, bully

Cognitively: (what they have learned, are learning)

  • to feel responsible for violence
  • to blame others for their behavior
  • to believe it's OK to hit others you care about to get what you want,express anger, feel powerful, get someone to meet your needs
  • to have low self-concept (because they cannot succeed in stopping the violence)
  • not to ask for what they need
  • not to trust (because of unkept promises to change)
  • to feel angry is bad (because people get hurt)
  • to be a boy means…(rigid sex stereotypes)
  • to be a girl means…(rigid sex stereotypes)
  • to be a man/woman/parent mean…(patterned after their family)