Domestic violence cases generally involve more than just the abuser and the victim. The children that live in these violent homes are directly impacted by the abuse going on around them.
Children are frequently witnesses to the violence or are used by the abuser to control the victim. In some cases the children themselves suffer physical injuries as a result of the violence that was intended for another victim or directed at the children themselves.
Studies have shown that up to 90% of children from violent households are aware that the abuse is going on in the house.
Some children actually witness the abuse while others may hear the victim crying, household items breaking, or the actual impact of physical blows to the victim. Children are very perceptive and, even at a young age, will often notice the blood, bruising, torn clothes and broken furniture that exist after the violent episode is over. Children are also very aware of the tension that exists between the adults in a violent home.
Sadly, it is not uncommon for the abuser in a violent home to attempt to use the children to control their victim. Control methods include actions like interrogating the children about the victim‘s activities and taking the children away from the victim, or threatening to take the children, in order to prevent the victim from fleeing. Even when the victim does try to leave the abusive situation, the abuser may continue to use the child as a means of control by engaging in battles over custody, holding the children hostage, demanding access to the children, and contacting the victim at work or home under the pretext of arranging visitation with the children.
Any time there is violence in the home; children are at risk of suffering physical injury at the hands of the abuser. In New Mexico 22% of children that are witnesses to domestic violence are reported to have experienced physical abuse, and additional 7% are reported to have been sexually abused by the offender. Physical abuse to the child can happen in ways other than direct abuse by the batterer. Sometimes the children are injured when they try to protect the parent/victim. Others are injured by objects thrown at the victim by the abuser. In addition to bodily injury, children often suffer other physical consequences as a result of domestic violence. Domestic violence frequently deprives children of housing, medical care, and proper schooling.
The consequences of growing up in a violent home extend well beyond physical damage. Growing up in an abusive household can have a profound impact on a child‘s self esteem, how they perceive and deal with authority figures, and their ability to establish intimate relationships. Many of these children have lifelong problems forming healthy emotional bonds and some will have difficulty with even basic social skills.
Domestic violence is a serious issue that cannot be ignored. There are many resources available to protect the victim and the children of domestic abuse. Criminal and civil charges can be brought against the abuser and protective orders can be issued to stop the abuser from having contact with the victim. An experienced family law attorney can help answer your questions and help identify the resources available to victims of abuse and their children.
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