Family violence hurts children
For children, exposure to family violence occurs not only by seeing it, but also by hearing it from another room, seeing bruises on caregivers and seeing destroyed property. All too often, children who witness violence are also abused. They may suffer:
- physical abuse (hitting, burning, etc.)
- sexual abuse (incest, sexual assault, etc.)
- emotional abuse (threats, put-downs, rejection, etc.)
- neglect (lack of healthy food, clean clothes, health care, etc.)
Thousands of children end up seriously injured -- or killed. Family violence affects children from every income level, race and religion.
The costs of family violence are high
Family violence takes a severe toll on children. Many develop serious physical, mental and emotional problems. Without treatment, the effects can last a lifetime. Children from violent homes may grow up to be the next generation of adult abusers and victims. The problems caused by family violence -- crime, broken families, etc. -- hurt every community.
What's it like for children to grow up in a violent home?
In general, they experience:
- Danger: Often children are the intended victim of one or both parents. Other times children get caught in the middle and are hurt or killed "by accident."
- Chaos: Children may never know what to expect at home. Their parents' moods can change instantly from loving to enraged.
- Fear and tension: The daily anger and violence create a living nightmare for the children, who may grow up being afraid of everything and trusting no one.
- Confusion: Children often receive mixed messages. For example, at school they learn that hitting is wrong, but at home they learn that hitting is used to "solve" problems.
- Isolation: Often an abusive parent shuts off the family from the outside world, and the children may withdraw from their friends and other adults as well.
- Hopelessness: Children may blame themselves for the violence but feel powerless to prevent, stop or escape from it.
- Development of a "Love/Hate" Relationship with Parents
- Children may feel protective of an abused parent. But they may also resent him or her for not stopping the abuse.
- Sometimes children may feel close to the abuser. Other times they may hope he or she goes away or dies.
- Children may feel guilty for not being able to rescue their family or for loving someone who is abusive.
Some changes you may notice in your child include feelings of "numbness," guilt, anger, helplessness or sadness. Some behaviors to look for in your children include excitability, clinginess, aggressive behaviors with family and friends, nightmares, withdrawal, taking care of parent, loss of energy, school problems, lack of trust, and changes in sleep and/or eating patterns.
Hope for children from violent homes
Positive influences in a child's life can help him or her overcome the negative ones. These may include:
- Positive Role Models - Many children who grow up with violence credit a relative, teacher, or friend's parent with showing them a better way -- and giving them love.
- Family Support - Being close to brothers and sisters (or other relatives) helps children feel loved and needed.
- Community Support - Positive youth activities and mentoring programs give children a chance to learn new skills. It also helps them to have a sense of purpose in life and build self-esteem.
- Other Factors - Other factors that may help include:
- personality traits -- some children seem naturally better able to handle negative experiences.
- the severity of the violence -- the less severe the violence, the better the chances of overcoming its negative effects.
With treatment and support, children and families can recover. Please call Williamson County Crisis Center at (512) 255-1212, they have free services available.
Questions and answers
What causes family violence?
- There's no single cause but there's no excuse for it either. Violence is a choice a person makes. The abuser is 100% responsible for the violence.
Should children be removed from a home if there is violence?
- There's no clear answer. However, any action should protect the children and ensure they live in a safe, caring environment. There are many options to keep children safe.
Where can I get more information and support?
- Round Rock Police Department's Victim's Assistance Coordinator 218-6663
- Childhelp USA IOF Foresters National Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-422-4453
- National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7233