I unfortunately know first–hand how domestic abuse effects a child’s life and development. I was brought home from the hospital and placed into a home that was ravaged with it. Growing up in a house of constant chaos and violence was “normal” for me. I didn’t know as a child that this manic environment wasn’t normal at all. I thought everyone lived in this type of craziness.
www.Actionagaintabuseuk.com gave an excellent definition of ‘How does domestic abuse effect children.’ According to them, children will react differently depending on the level of violence they have witnessed, the length of time they are exposed to it, their age at exposure and the support they received. Every child will be affected by domestic abuse in the home, even babies. They are likely to feel confused, angry, insecure, frightened, or as if they are to blame. That is a heavy load to carry for anyone, let alone for a child.
So, what type of things can children exposed to domestic violence experience as a result of the abuse:
- Mental health problems such as; anxiety, depression or suicidal thoughts
- Behavioral problems such as; aggression- Children living in an environment where they see one parent abuse the other parent believe it is acceptable to lash out or hit others.
- Physical problems such as; belly aches or headaches
- Bed Wetting
- Emotional or developmental immaturity
- Problems in schooling
- Low self-esteem
- Self-harm or attempted suicide. Those who grow up with domestic violence are 6 times more likely to commit suicide
These are just a few effects on a long list of the damage children face living in an abusive home.
My younger self didn’t realize what effects living in our home were doing to me and to my siblings. As an adult and much removed from the abuse, I now know that it’s an absolute miracle that I came out with only the scars I have, it could have been so much worse.
Children who were exposed to violence in the home are 15 times more likely to be physically and/or sexually assaulted than the national average.
So I’ve giving you all the statistics nicely wrapped up in a bow, now I am going to get real and raw with how domestic abuse really effects children of domestic abuse. I do not tell you this to shock you, or to make you sad. I tell you the truth in order to take domestic abuse out of the darkness and into the light where people will see it and do something about it.
You cannot save the children until you help the parent being abused while holding the abuser accountable for their choices, yes choices. Domestic abuse isn’t about anger, the alcohol, the drugs or being poor, it’s about the abuser making the choice to abuse, to hit, to choke, to kick, to catch of fire, to threaten and yes, to kill. Those are all CHOICES that the abuser makes.
As a child it wasn’t like I could just leave. As a child in a domestic abuse household I was taught to keep my families “dirty little secret” at all cost. Even when I was directly asked if there was abuse happening in my house, due to pure terror of letting anyone find out, I would straight up lie to them.
Anyone who has lived through or in domestic abuse has their own truth, their own story and two people living in the same abuse can have different stories and accounts depending on the development of their brain and what they hone in on. This is how domestic abuse affected me as a child and subsequently as an adult who grew up in that environment. It’s important to note, the chaos and abuse was NOT a 24/7/365 event, as it never is. When it’s good and harmonious, it amazing and happy but when it is poor hell, well it’s just that, pure hell. No abusive situation is abuse at all times or full of mayhem.
As a child I was always afraid, always. It didn’t matter if I was playing “shark” with my siblings or sitting at school. When was the abuse going to start and worse yet, what was it going to be like. Was I going to come home from school to find my mom dead? At any moment my Mom could whisk into school, check all of us kids out and we’d go into hiding for day, weeks or months. I was horrible behind on all my subjects. I was a poor reader, and I had to take resource classes to try to be where my peers were at my age. Until I was an adult my spelling was horrible. I struggled spelling simple words like; supposed or receive. All I can stay is thank God for the creator of Google, though it came well after my childhood, and forget the complicated words, I didn’t even try. It’s amazing how you learn to dumb yourself down so you can find a word you can actually spell. When teachers would call me up the board to spell a word, I was overcome with fright and almost in tears. I didn’t want to feel like a dunce, I didn’t want to be behind in every single subject in school. Math, yeah forget it. I was in general math classes until I graduated high school. Yes, in spite of all my scholastic short comings I can proudly say that I was the first one of the kids to graduate high school. Once I was in 10th grade, I decided I WAS going to graduate come hell or high water. I went to school, when I could, I went to summer school, night school and though I graduated it was a few years after all my friends had graduated. My older siblings helped to pay for my additional schooling along with me working as much as I could. What would have taken the “average” kid 12 years to complete it took me much, much more. Domestic abuse is one of the leading causes for poor scholastic performance and high school drop outs, putting kids behind the eight ball before they can even get started.
As a tween I didn’t know it or should I say, I didn’t know what it was called. I suffered from depression for many years growing up. I can remember being thirteen years old sitting on my bed and thinking, “if I could only die so I could get out of this hell hole.” I felt real guilt at the fact that I didn’t want to be at home when the abuse started. I felt guilt for leaving Mom alone to fend for herself while I escaped. I have never admitted this or said this out loud. Growing up I thought my Mom was the weakest person I knew and I hated my Dad. When you are a kid or a teenager you don’t see or feel things from your Mom’s point of view you just draw all your thoughts and feeling from how you perceive the situation. This guilt still makes me tear up when I think about it and I am 47 years old. It wasn’t until I was on the other side of all the abuse that I realized my Mom wasn’t weak at all. That woman should be qualified for sainthood for all the suffering she endured and for all the love she poured into my siblings and me despite all the hell she endured every day. I also realized she was just trying to stay alive and in one piece most days. I never did find respect for my Dad. Some questions how I cannot respect him, after all his is my dad. To them I say this… I will never respect him despite him being my Dad. He did nothing that showed me he deserved it. When you choice to respect a monster for all the torment he caused multiple people and my Mom then you are condoning the violence and disrespecting my Mother and all victims of domestic abuse.
I often found comfort and security as a child sleeping under the bed, the table, my brother’s bed, wherever I could fit. It was my safe haven under there amongst the dust bunnies, cobwebs and roaches. At least, I didn’t have to see the abuse, even though I still had to hear it.
I was very timid and shy around people. In school other students thought I as “stuck up,” but in fact I was using my learned defense mechanisms to protect myself and from other people finding out what my life was really like. If I didn’t have friends, then I wouldn’t have to lie to them when they asked to stay the night or come over to play. I didn’t have to lie to them when they were all going shopping, to the mall to hang out, to the movies or heck, anywhere that involved money to do, as my father drank up what little money we had. It has taken me … years… to let the true me shine through. Breaking the outer shell, and taking off the mask you show the world is never easy at any age, but when you have a background of abuse, let me tell you, prying that mask off is like trying to unstick your fingers once you’ve accidentally super glued them together. It can be done but not without losing some skin in the process.
Right on que, I fell into the horrible statistic of bed wetting. I wet the bed until I was 12 years old. Being a bed wetter is highly embarrassing because not only do you wet the bed at home but you wet it at Girl Scout camp, at your friend’s house, at relative’s houses and in domestic abuse shelters. I was horrible teased by my siblings, being called “Miss Peabody.” At 47 years old I still cringe at it. It is a reminder of a past I so desperately want to forget. A reminder of a time when I had no control and when it was better to pee the bed then to get up and walk into the restroom for fear of what you might walk into.
One study in North America found that children who were exposed to violence in the home were 15 times more likely to be physically and /or sexually assaulted then the national average.
Well yippee, I’m a statistic. Welcome to my adulthood! As with the majority of girls who experience the abuse of their mother, I too became a victim of domestic abuse. Not once, but twice. Welcome to the next generation of domestic abuse. Yes, domestic abuse is in fact generational. If you came from abuse, then you’re mom/dad probably came from abuse and so on and so on. It didn’t have to be physical it could have been emotional, psychological, financial or sexual. At the ripe old age of 21 years old I became a domestic abuse victim at the hands of my husband. I went through so many emotions and thoughts with this. It is sad to be typing this and such a shame that I have to. I had always promised myself that if any man ever hit me I was going to defend myself, and that I did. I wasn’t going to just take it like I thought my mom did. I became a victim and an abuser in the same relationship. I went through 4 years of physical abuse, financial abuse, emotional abuse and an attempted sexual assault, but this article isn’t about my abuse, it is about the effects of domestic abuse on children, though my dance with adult domestic abuse is in fact a direct correlation to the effects that domestic abuse unknowingly has on a child’s life long term. I would rather tell you about the gut wrenching day I realized I was doing to my child what I had to witness as a child myself. That my childhood trauma had spilled over into my child’s DNA.
During one of my husband and I’s many “fights” as I was being pinned against the wall, I caught a glimpse of my own child out of the corner of my eye. In that moment of chaos and abuse it was like I transported into my own child’s body and was looking out for her eye as the child I once was seeing my own mother being abused. I was having an all too familiar flashback but this time, it was through my child perspective. I left my husband shortly after that. You see I didn’t have a choice as a child, I had to live in abuse, terror, chaos and fear but I was an adult now and my child was not going to be scared and traumatized by domestic abuse like I was. I had stopped generational domestic abuse and I know in my soul and from experience, you can too!!
I want to take this time to say to you; if you are currently living in an abuse relationship, be it physical, emotional, financial, cyber or sexual, PLEASE… PLEASE, seek help in order for you to break free from you abuse and abuser. If you have children make no mistake, your children see every hit, hear every word and feel every emotion you do and there is not one thing they can do about it! You have to find a way to take control, it is up to you to save yourself and your children from the massive amounts of damage the abuse is doing to all of you.
You are stronger then you think!!!
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Gina Kendall Lusardi spent the first 27 years of her life living in one form of domestic abuse or another. First as a child of domestic abuse where she witness her mother beaten on many occasions and her father holding a gun to the head of her mother while playing Russian Roulette. Gina spent a lot of time in and out of domestic abuse shelter with her Mom’s and Siblings throughout her childhood only to return to the abuse. As with most children of abuse she too found herself in two abusive marriages. Gina experienced physical abuse, financial abuse, emotional abuse and an attempted sexual assault at the hand of the men who vowed to love and cherish her before God. Gina was able to save herself for the long line of domestic abuse that had plagued her life with dedication, hard work, planning, tears and poor determination. Today Gina has turned that pain into her purpose. Gina helps domestic abuse victims and survivors formulate their own plan to escape and stay out. She helps them break free from the abuse for good.