We unfortunately live in a society where violence against children and family members is an increasing problem. Violence means using force to hurt or control someone or break or damage something. Some people get very angry and lose control. They may throw things, punch a wall or hit somebody. They may even be sorry afterwards. If you, a family member or a friend has been slapped, hit or pushed, or your behavior is out of control or violent, it is time to seek help. No one deserves to be hurt! There are times when abuse is not physical but emotional. In these situations someone may be threatening a child or an adult verbally or treating them in a way that makes them feel unsafe or believe they will be hurt.
If you, or someone you're with, is hurt or in danger, get away and get help from a friend or neighbor. Call 911 for police assistance.
If there is no emergency, but you are afraid of being hurt physically or emotionally by a friend or family member, or are fearful someone you love may be hurt, talk about it with someone who will listen and believe you, or call one of the numbers listed, under abuse or sexual abuse.
It is common to have mixed feelings about someone who is violent towards you. It is important to tell someone and not keep secrets even if the person promises not to do it again. People who abuse or hurt others need to get help. By telling someone, you begin to take control of the situation and begin to help yourself.
You or someone you love may be in an abusive relationship if you or they:
We hear most about domestic violence (family or household violence) that occurs between married people or adults who are living together. Teens can be involved in abusive dating relationships. Recent studies report almost one-third of teen and college age students experience abuse in dating relationships. These relationships, just as those involving domestic violence, are very difficult to end. Talk with your teens if you have concerns that they may be involved in an abusive relationship. If they seem unwilling to discuss it with you, suggest they speak to someone they feel comfortable with or see a counselor. (See Counseling.)
Effects of Domestic Violence on Children
In homes where domestic violence occurs, children are at high risk of suffering physical abuse themselves. Regardless of whether children are physically abused, the emotional effects of witnessing domestic violence are very similar to the psychological trauma associated with being a victim of child abuse. Each year, an estimated minimum of 3.3 million children witness domestic violence.
The negative consequences for children living in violent homes often begin during the first year of life. These very young victims have been known to display such symptoms as excessive fears, poor sleeping habits, poor health and excessive screaming. As a child grows, so too does the impact of living with family violence. Preschool children, who are only just beginning to define themselves and their place in the world, often respond to family violence by displaying lags or regressions in development, excessive anxiety and excessive aggression. Feelings of guilt and responsibility for the abuse may also become evident at this time.
Older child victims may come to the attention of school authorities because of their behavior, truancy, poor self-esteem, aggression, learning problems and delinquent behaviors.
Recent research indicates that the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder-sleep disturbances, traumatic nightmares, intrusive daytime ruminations, flashbacks and startle reactions-have been identified in children exposed to domestic violence.
Perhaps most distressing are the studies which indicate that these child victims often grow up to repeat the roles of abused and abuser that they saw so vividly demonstrated in their childhood.
How to Talk to Children About Domestic Violence
If violence is happening in the home, in most instances children know about the violence. Give kids the permission to talk about it with you or another adult who can help make them feel better. It is okay and important to talk about the violence and unlock the "family secret".
Help kids to understand that other children are also in this situation, and that they are not the cause of or responsible for the violence.
Other ways to help children in this situation:
Develop a safety plan for children in case another violent episode occurs. Tell children to stay out of the way. Encourage them to go get help or call 911 if it is safe for them to do so. Help build children's self-esteem. (See Self-Esteem.) Let children know it is okay to have mixed feelings about their family member.
The following sources will help with abuse issues: