Domestic Violence and Its Impact on Children

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The month of October is Domestic Violence month and teli is devoted to creating awareness of the impact of this enormous societal problem. Among the many sobering facts is that 1 in 4 women are the victims of Domestic Violence. Even more compelling is the impact on our most vulnerable population, children witness and endure this tragedy in what should be a safe place.. their home. The facts are staggering.

  • 3-5 children in each classroom are impacted by Domestic Violence
  • 10  Million children (just in the United States) witness partner violence each year
  • Fathers who batter a mother are two times more likely than are non-abusive partners to seek sole custody of a child to further control their partner.
  • 40-60% of men who abuse their partner, abuse their children, be it emotionally, physically or sexually.

These alarming statistics on the impact of Domestic Violence on children provide a different perspective on the problem. While we tend to focus more on the abused partner, the trauma imposed on the children is staggering.  teli in partnership with the Women’s Center &  Shelter of  Greater Pittsburgh is  committed to raising awareness as well as offer some insight on recognition as well as potential steps to help.

But how do you recognize the signs?

Nicole Molinaro Karaczun, Director of Services for the Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh, has been working to help victims for more than 9 years.   “Abused spouses may be very focused on trying to find a way to safely leave the relationship or a safe way to live in the relationship if they are not ready to leave,” notes Nicole.  “Further compounding the complexity of her situation is the impact of the abuse on her children, who may be experiencing behavioral issues or developmental delays as a result of the trauma induced by the emotional and physical strain the child may be experiencing. She wants a better life for herself and her family but feels trapped.”

In Nicole’s experience at the Women’s Center & Shelter, a variety of supports are available for both the abused spouse and the children.  Some of the following may be signs to look for in child’s behavior.

  • Infants who cry excessively and are inconsolable with noticeable difficulty being soothed and/or stiffness upon touch.  Weight gain may also be compromised and they may appear small for their age.
  • Toddlers may display uncontrollable temper tantrums and defiance to direction or discipline.  They may also demonstrate reckless, aggressive, or sad behavior. Often toddlers will have sleep difficulties and anxiety and/or emotional issues.
  • Children and Adolescences may be depressed, anxious, act out against authority or have exaggerated and early experimentation with drugs, alcohol, or sex.

What can you do to help?

Reaching out to help may be very difficult despite your good intentions.  A victim may not appreciate your offer of help and not accept it at first, but years later may take advantage of your offer. This is not a private problem and we can’t let it go unaddressed.

The first step toward help is letting the victim that they are not alone, in spite of feeling isolated and helpless. Nicole recommends the following to provide support and a resource for both the victim and the child.

  • Let her know it is OK to talk about it. For both the victim and the children, engaging them in non-threatening conversation may be the first step. Talk about their home life and listen for signs. Denial or minimizing is common as the victims have often been told by their abusive partners that it’s their fault or they have come to believe that abuse is normal. Reinforce that you are there to listen.
  • Offer concrete support. Encourage the victim to  get help  for the sake of the children by providing resources  such as :
    • Women’s Center & Shelter 24/7 Hotline number :  412-687-8005
    • Identify a Domestic Violence support system such as legal advocacy, counseling, etc.
    • Women’s Center & Shelter of Pittsburgh
    • Download the free R U Safe Assessment App (for Apple or Android phones) to help to assess their situation and identify resources.
  • Don’t ever say “Why don’t you just leave?” While seemingly the most logical question, this simple judgmental question can do more harm than good. There are many reasons why it is not that simple and most alarming is the statistic that 73% of Domestic Violence victims are killed when they leave or after they leave.  Support them through resource identification and encourage them to call a domestic violence hotline to create a safety plan.  The hotline is also available for those who are trying to help and support victims as well.
  • Call the police. If you witness domestic violence, contact the police immediately.

How can you raise awareness?

Realizing the prevalence and impact of Domestic Violence in our community is an important step in moving toward a support system for those in need.  Silence is not the answer. Join teli and the Women’s Center & Shelter in building awareness by posting this article on your Facebook page today!

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