As we continue to focus on Domestic Violence Awareness Month in the month of October, we are taking a look at how domestic violence affects youth. When a parent is the victim of an abusive relationship, children may hear one parent threaten the other, witness a parent who is afraid or angry, or see/hear one parent harm the other or destroy objects at home. Children may begin to live in fear that the violence or threats will occur again, or that they could become targets. Although domestic violence can have a major impact on youth, there are ways to get help.
IF YOU ARE EXPERIENCING A DOMESTIC VIOLENCE SITUATION: Contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, text START to 88788, or go to thehotline.org for a live chat. All hotline options are free, anonymous and available 24/7/365.
What is the impact of domestic violence on children?
In data collected by the National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence it was reported that one in 15 children are exposed to domestic violence each year, and upwards of 90% of these children are direct eyewitnesses to it. Both short-term and long-term effects are possible for children who have been exposed to domestic violence. Studies have found that children may suffer from PTSD, and are at greater risk of having allergies, asthma, gastrointestinal problems, headaches and flu. As adults, individuals who experienced traumatic events, also known as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), are at a greater risk for tobacco use, substance abuse, obesity, cancer, heart disease, depression and greater chances of unintended pregnancy.
How to identify a youth victim of domestic violence
According to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, younger or preschool age children who have been exposed to a traumatic event may have a feeling or helplessness or fear that extends into aspects of their life other than just home or family time. You may notice that they have a hard time explaining their emotions or why they are upset. They might not like separating from parents for daycare, school or sleep and they may engage in play related to the event.
School-age children could also have trouble sleeping, aggressive behavior or difficulty in the classroom. They may feel a sense of guilt or shame and become concerned about the safety of themselves and others. Adolescents will also likely experience anxiety, fear, guilt or sadness. They may also feel self-conscious about their family being different from others, and could engage in self-destructive behavior. Identifying this behavior in youth is a major step toward getting help.
How you can help children in a domestic violence situation
The first priority for parents or families of children witnessing a domestic violence relationship is to get them into a safe situation and develop relationships with supportive adults. Working with counselors and advocates who have specialized training and experience can offer comfort and assistance overcoming these effects, and early intervention can also help to prevent children from growing up to become domestic violence victims or abusers one day.
Safe family members, physicians and school employees can also offer support to children of domestic violence. Providing a safe place to verbalize feelings and offering understanding when “acting out” or aggressive behavior does occur can make a big difference in overcoming a traumatic event like domestic violence or emotional abuse. Most importantly, a strong relationship with a caring and nonviolent parent/guardian can help children continue to grow positively despite the experiences they may have had in the past.
Is your teen is experiencing dating violence?
One of the effects of experiencing domestic violence as a child is that the cycle is more likely to repeat as a teen or adult. Studies show that females who are exposed to a domestic violence relationship with their parents are significantly more likely to later become a victim of dating violence. And even without other risk factors, it is estimated that at least 10-20% of the general teen population have experienced physical aggression in a dating relationship.
Teen violence from a dating partner can be either physical, emotional or sexual and can seriously affect the intimate and romantic adult relationships that both parties have in the future. You can help prevent the teens in your life from a violent dating relationship by providing them with the education to identify a dangerous situation, as well as communication skills and resources to find help getting out of it.
Here at Healthy365, our Support Navigators are committed to offering a confidential listening ear and connections to local resources for you and your family. Contact us today at 317-468-4231 to learn more about our mental health support for children and adults, as well as financial/housing assistance opportunities.