Childhood Domestic Violence: A Silent Disaster -Mental Health Month

by Nisar Ullah

E

very minute intimate partners abuse 20 women in the US. It directly or indirectly leads to childhood domestic violence. Similarly, 3.3 million children witness domestic violence by family members each year. This large number increases each year, handicapping millions of children for a lifetime.

When children are exposed to inter-parental violence or abused by a parent, it’s known as childhood domestic violence. Children are sensitive and easily affected by tension and stress in the house. Some parents think their children can’t see, hear, or feel the abuse going on in the house. However, they’re mistaken. Even if children don’t witness it, they hear and sense it.

Many celebrities have opened up about their experiences of abuse.

During an interview, actress Halle Berry told NBC-TV’s Natalie Morales, “For a good chunk of my childhood, my mother was a battered woman. Domestic violence can happen to anyone, including celebrities.”

Tyler Perry

childhood-domestic-violence-a-silent-disaster

Photo: Tyler Perry / Times Magazine

Known for his movie and stage success, Tyler Perry talked openly about the abuse he suffered. In fact, his biological name was Emmitt Perry Jr., but he wanted no part of his abusive father’s identity. Perry said his father was an abusive alcoholic, “whose answer to everything was to beat it out of you,” Perry told an interviewer. He told People in 2009 when he was 10, a friend’s mother sexually assaulted him. And his grandmother bathed him in ammonia to rid him of his allergies.

Rihanna

Photo: Rihanna / Sky News

Popstar Rihanna’s domestic violence incident with pop singer Chris Brown made headlines in 2019 when he beat her the night before the Grammy awards. Court records said Brown had slammed her head against the window and continued to throw punches at her.

Michael Jackson

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Photo: Micheal Jackson / Smooth Radio

The late singer often spoke about how abusive his father Joe Jackson was during his childhood years. Jackson, who died in 2019, said his father would beat him and his brothers with belts, electric cords, and tree branches when they didn’t live up to his standards.

Relationship between domestic violence and child abuse

According to the National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice (NCCCJ), domestic violence increased by 8.1% in the US during the lockdown.
“In my mind, I think 8% is a floor and not a ceiling,” Piquero stated. “I think the problem is actually worse than we actually know right now.”
Data also indicates 60% of abusive partners are abusive parents. Therefore, the rate of childhood domestic violence has also increased during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Impacts of Childhood Domestic Violence (CDV) on Children

childhood-domestic-violence-a-silent-disaster

Photo by Mikhail Nilov from Pexels

Abuse and violence severely affect everyone, particularly kids. Their tender minds get stressed and develop multiple physical and mental issues. Children of different ages react differently to domestic violence.

Young children aged 1 to 4 years are severely affected by domestic violence. They can’t help but develop issues like anxiety, weep excessively, and fear of abandonment. Young children understand what’s happening around them and can sense danger. That’s why they fear losing mothers, who are usually victims of abuse.

Children who go to school are mature enough to know what’s going on. Domestic violence makes them anxious. As a result, they can’t perform well in studies, skip classes, can’t befriend peers, and have low self-esteem. Moreover, they face issues in speaking and stuttering when speaking.

Teenagers aged 11 to 16 years are affected differently. Along with bad academic performance, they become violent. Such kids are involved in substance abuse, unprotected sex, and other illegal activities. Furthermore, they lead a physically and psychologically unstable life with aggressive behavior if not treated early.

Moreover, children who face violence in their early lives become violent and abusive. The same cycle of violence is followed in their relationships. They are more likely to commit violence against their intimate partners and children. If this toxic cycle doesn’t break, it’ll lead to dangerous results.

Data indicates that people who have experienced CDV (childhood domestic violence) have six times higher chances to commit suicide. In addition, if they don’t forget their past and start a new life, they’re 50% more likely to be alcohol or drug addicts.

Martin, a CDV survivor and author, says, “They will not reach their full potential unless they unlearn what was learned.” He further states that the severest inflictions hit you during childhood because of your delicate brain. When your brain is wrongly wired during childhood, it’s hard to rewire and reconnect. However, if you do, no obstacle can hold you back.

Symptoms

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Photo by Keira Burton from Pexels

Sometimes, understanding the symptoms of abuse is problematic, because it can mimic other disorders. However, children suffering from abuse might experience symptoms of abuse in many ways.

Signs of Sexual Abuse:

  • Fearful behavior (nightmares, depression, unusual fears, attempts to run away).
  • Abdominal pain
  • Bedwetting
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Genital pain or bleeding
  • Sexually transmitted disease
  • Extreme sexual behavior or knowledge that seems inappropriate for the child’s age.

Signs of Neglect:

  • Failure to gain weight (especially in infants).
  • Poor hygiene
  • Desperately affectionate behavior
  • Voracious appetite, including stealing or hiding food
  • Stealing money or other necessary items
  • Lack of adequate clothing or basic necessities
  • Failure to attend school regularly

Signs of Emotional Abuse:

  • Dramatic change in self-confidence
  • Social withdrawal
  • Headaches or stomachaches with no medical cause
  • Abnormal fears, like increased nightmares or attempts to run away, may avoid certain situations or people
  • Persistent anxiety or worry about doing something “wrong.”
  • Depression
  • Poor school performance or sudden loss of interest in school

How Can You Help Your Child Avoid Childood Domestic Violence?

Children are naive and might mistake abuse and violence for expected behavior. You must ensure your child knows about good and bad touches as a parent. You should guide them on reacting when someone, either a stranger or a family member, makes you feel uncomfortable.

Should You Leave an Abusive Relationship for Your Child?

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Photo by Alex Green from Pexels

Yes, because you can’t hide the violence happening within the family. It’ll handicap your child for a lifetime. That’s why you should contact your regional social support organization and explain your situation. Leave your abusive relationship with the organization’s plan to ensure safety.

Can A Child Recover From Childhood Domestic Violence?

If you remove your child from the situation as soon as possible and try to treat the trauma, your child may recover. There are millions of people who have recovered from it. They don’t forget their experiences, but healthily deal with them.

Living with domestic violence is a destructive experience. However, there are many ways to leave such a life behind while starting a new life. Many regional organizations help victims of domestic violence. You should believe you deserve better, and an abusive relationship isn’t the end. You can save you and your child’s life and lead a happy life afterwards.

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