October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month


What are the effects on children? 


by Taylor Hernandez

When talking about domestic violence many overlook or forget that also includes children. Studies have estimated that 3.3 - 10 million children witness domestic violence each year. Children, like their adult caregivers, experience trauma from the physical and verbal abuse in the home. According to Domestic Violence Services, INC “. Children from homes with violence are much more likely to experience significant psychological problems short and long-term. Living with domestic violence significantly alters a children’s DNA, aging them prematurely 7-10 years.” The violence and trauma they go through whether it is verbally, physically, emotionally or witness counts towards their ACE’s (adverse childhood experiences).

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network states that “children's responses depend on the severity of the violence, their proximity to the violent events, and the responses of their caregivers.” Children’s immediate reactions to domestic violence may include generalized anxiety, sleeplessness, nightmares, difficulty concentrating, high activity levels, increased aggression, increased anxiety about being separated from a parent, intense worry about their safety or the safety of a parent. Long-term effects, especially from chronic exposure to domestic violence, may include physical health problems, behavior problems in adolescence (e.g., delinquency, alcohol, or substance abuse), emotional difficulties in adulthood (e.g., depression, anxiety, PTSD).

There are an overwhelming amount of negative side effects that come from domestic violence but that doesn’t mean it has sealed the fate of the children that experience it. Children have the potential to be very resilient the dictionary definition is “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness”. The MN Department of Health definition is “the result of a dynamic set of interactions between a person’s adverse experiences and his or her protective factors” Protective Factors also can help a child heal/ cope and move on. Children’s social and emotional health plays a big role as well along with other social connections. One of the strongest protective factors for children exposed to domestic violence is their relationship with the non-abusive parent.

Being a child survivor of domestic violence gives me a closer perspective to the obstacles a child faces, but it is possible to heal and move on.

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