“Domestic violence does not discriminate by race, culture, region, or religion…Domestic violence may occur in any family, anywhere” (Leavey 7). The “American Dream” – a family, 2. 5 children, a cat or dog, a house with a white picket fence – is not even close to reality for children who live in homes where cosmetic violence occurs. Their reality is hearing scream sin the middle of the night, looking at mom with bruises and black eyes, running towards the neighbors’’ as the sirens approach, going to the emergency room, and knowing the shelter workers by name.
These children live in fear day to day, being cautions not to do or say anything that might cause another incident. They learn to call 911 and to sneak themselves and their siblings to the neighbors’ houses where they will be safe until the police arrive. They learn to go to school the next day and pretend nothing happened and live a normal life like the other children in the classrooms. This disgusting trend called domestic violence must be ended. The physical, emotional, behavioral, and long-term effects of domestic violence on these children are all too real and have long-lasting effects.
The most observable and obvious effects are the physical. According to English, “a national survey on family violence found that children were twice as likely to be physically abused by mothers or fathers in households where there was battering” (43). Children repeatedly suffer injuries at the hands of the abuser. The children try to come between the abuser and their parent, trying to protect mom from another black eye or bloody nose, and in the course of action, they too can become injured. At other times, they may be slapped or punched for calling 911 again and getting the abuser in trouble.
Another physical effect these children suffer is the recurrence of illness caused by the stressful situation and lacks of care from the victim. Moms are often too busy trying to stay out of harm’s way to worry about whether the children had a meal or a bath or the proper clothes on for the weather outside. As a result, these children suffer from poor nutrition and poor sleep patterns. Countless times they are afraid to go to sleep at night, and when they do, they are awakened again by the sounds of the abuse. Even in the absence of physical abuse, there are other effects on the children.
The abuse is seen in an assortment of emotional outcomes. Leavey states in the Innocent Victims, “In an abusive home where the children may not have been physically beaten and there is no external evidence to indicate that a child is in pain, it is important to remember that they are in emotional pain” (8). Children blame themselves for the abuse. They may feel that if only they would or would not have behaved in a certain way, not asked for seconds, or not have let their baby sister cry, mom would not have been hit again. Children in these circumstances often suffer feelings of guilt, depression, and low self-esteem.
They are told not to tell anyone about what happens at home. They do not get close to anyone for fear a friend may find out, resulting in social isolation, which can affect children’s emotion well being. All of these emotional responses to the abuse also create behavioral consequences. Crossen-Tower states, “Children’s behaviors often mirror the atmosphere at home. Abused children exhibit particular behaviors that are indicative to their dysfunctional environment” (100). They become aggressive, manipulative, and defensive. They are angry about their home life and act out as a way to compensate or as a call for help.
Some of this acting out is attention seeking. The old adage applies, “bad attention is better than no attention. ” These children only know that they attention they get at home is about keeping the abuser happy and so they do not get to make choices. The emotional guilt that children feel often results in those children taking on a care-taker role with siblings. They must keep their siblings safe, so they consequently become the caretaker for other siblings. All of these feelings and behaviors, combined with the lack of sleep and nutrition, trying to keep the secret, and being the caretaker, may result in academic problems.
The results of these behaviors last a lifetime. Growing up in a home where there is domestic violence has long-term effects on these children. Children learn what they live. Children learn by watching the adults in their lives and grow up to model themselves after these adults. If the only adults in their lives are in constant crisis, the children learn that this is a normal lifestyle. Many times the adults in the house have alcohol and substance abuse issues, so these children learn that alcohol and drugs are acceptable for dealing with feelings cause by the abuse.
They subsequently use alcohol or drugs in their own lives when it becomes too much for them to handle. Finally, children who grow up in this environment learn that these types of relation shop are normal, and frequently, they themselves, end up in abusive relationship as either the abuser or the victim. As Leavey says, “No matter how violence in a home is experiences…our children always are harmed” (11). Children gain knowledge of life from their own experiences. Children growing up in homes where domestic violence is a regular occurrence have lasting physical, behavioral, and emotional effects.
The effects of the abuse mold children into the people they will become and influence the decisions they will make along the journey to adulthood. Domestic violence and its influence teach children how to make decisions, complete with challenges, and deal with life’s daily struggles whether children find healthy or unhealthy ways to survive this lifestyle, the end result is still the same. According to English, “What lasting effects there may nonetheless be is a question that can only be addressed by long-term studies that follow these children into adulthood, as they begin to form families and households of their own” (55).
Domestic violence needs to end. Report any cases you know of so that victims and families can receive help and children can be saved. Works Cited Crossen-Tower, Cynthia. Understanding Child Abuse and Neglect. Fourth Edition. Needham, MA: A Viacom Company, 1999. English, Diane J. , David B. Marshall, and Angela J. Stewart. “Effects of Family Violence on child Behavior and Health during Early Childhood. ” Journal of Family Violence Vol. 18, No. 1 (February 2003): 43-57. Leavy, Julianne. The Innocent Victims. California: Leavy, 2003.