Written by Jane E. Graham Jennings
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Part of the awareness needed is understanding the significant impact that violent homes have on children. Children who witness domestic violence experience harmful short- and long-term effects, often suffering from emotional, behavioral, and somatic problems such as:
- Aggressive behavior
- Physical ailments (due to stress)
- Difficulty concentrating
Many researchers have studied the effects of domestic abuse on children and, according to the Childhood Domestic Violence Association, their results conclude:
Children from homes with domestic abuse are
- 6 times more likely to commit suicide
- 50% more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol
- 74% more likely to commit a violent crime
For children, their sense of identity, perception of their well-being, and understanding of their whole existence is filtered through their experience of being part of their family. When there is violence and abuse in their home, it has a profound effect on how they view themselves, their parents and siblings, and the world around them.
Witnessing violence between family members creates strong feelings of fear, powerlessness, and confusion. Because children are not equipped with a sophisticated set of coping skills, witnessing the violence produces trauma that often results in mental health disorders such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Acute Stress Disorder.
Children who witness domestic abuse also may learn that violent behavior is a normal response to conflict. Children of domestic violence are 3 times more likely to repeat the cycle in adulthood. In fact, growing up with domestic violence is the most significant predictor of whether a child will be engaged in domestic violence later in life.
Being a child witness to violence can make a child more vulnerable to abuse as a teen and as an adult. Additionally, in treatment programs for adult males who use violence, many report that they witnessed their fathers abusing their mothers.
There is a strong correlation between witnessing violence and perpetuating violence; however, it is not causal.
Using violence is ALWAYS a choice — a learned behavior that can be UN-learned.
To stop the cycle of violence, we need to hold perpetrators accountable and recognize that although not all parents who abuse their spouse abuse their children, a significant number do. Even if the children are not directly abused, the research is clear that growing up in a violent home has long-term negative effects.
We as a society still spend much of our time questioning the behaviors and choices of the victims of domestic abuse. What’s more… we have systems that allow a violent person to have unsupervised access to his or her children. This needs to change.
People who believe they can use violence against their partner don’t stop being abusive when one partner leaves. They believe they are entitled and they continue that abusive behavior with their next partner. Thus, their children continue to be exposed to violence.
Part of the work of The Women’s Community is to help shift the paradigm so we:
STOP asking what victims can do to stop the abuse
START asking why people feel entitled to use violence.
That is the question that will lead us to PREVENTION.
We have to hold perpetrators accountable for their behavior and force them to change. But until that happens, we still need to provide safety for those victims who are trying to figure out how to survive and to keep their children safe — and free from witnessing domestic abuse.
To that end, The Women’s Community:
- Provides a safe environment for victims and their children
- Models healthy conflict resolution and helps children learn other ways to deal with their emotions
- Helps repair the broken bond between the protective parent and child(ren) that has been disrupted due to violence in the home
- Provides an intervention so children can learn that abuse is not normal and that there are alternative ways to deal with conflict
The more we can intervene, the more we can help to stop generational family abuse.
We invite you to help us to educate others and create change to end abuse by participating in our #ButterflyEffectChallenge.
Display, hang, wear, paint, design, and showcase butterflies in creative ways with your commitment to help create change throughout our community to end all abuse.
This challenge kicked off in April and runs till the end of 2017. Your support will help build awareness, generate funds, maintain the facility, and advance programming. Donations raised through this challenge will be matched dollar-for-dollar by a generous grant from Carl & Barbara Drake.
Domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and trafficking know no boundaries and can happen to anyone. As our culture continues to change, the programs and needs of The Women’s Community continue to grow and change.
We Listen. We Support. We Transform Lives.
And we THANK YOU for helping us raise awareness throughout Domestic Violence Awareness Month — and beyond — throughout Marathon County.
Jane E. Graham Jennings
Executive Director | The Women’s Community, Inc.
Jane E. Graham Jennings has worked at The Women’s Community for over 20 years serving in the role of Executive Director for all but 3 of those years. Jane has dedicated her life to giving voice to those who feel voiceless due to various forms of violence and oppression. She started her career of anti-violence work in college, where she earned a degree in Psychology. She has been certified through the Department of Justice as a Law Enforcement trainer to train officers on understanding victims of domestic and sexual violence. She was appointed by Governor Walker to serve on the statewide Criminal Justice Coordinating Council. She was also appointed by Attorney General Brad Schimel to serve on the Wisconsin Crime Victims’ Rights Board. In her spare time, she enjoys outdoors activities — particularly hunting and fishing — with her husband, Chris, and their hunting dog, Rocket. Email Jane E. Graham Jennings.
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