WodBottom's mission has always been to support the survivors of domestic violence and their families. We do this in part by donating a portion of our profits to Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (DAIS), but also by sharing blogs dedicated to talking about domestic violence and the issues surrounding it.
We discuss domestic abuse to empower victims and survivors, break the stigma surrounding the issue, promote healthy relationships, and in an attempt to create a safer, more compassionate society.
How Domestic Abuse Affects Children
Abuse doesn't just affect the abuser and victim. It impacts everyone surrounding them, including any children they may have. According to a Futures Without Violence report, it is estimated that 15.5 million children in the United States live in homes where domestic violence occurs at least once a year.
How does growing up witnessing abuse affect these 15.5 million? How will it shape their lives? Most importantly, what can be done to help?
Impact of Witnessing Abuse
Witnessing abuse can cause a multitude of issues for children, including:
- Anxiety and Depression
- Children who experience or witness domestic abuse are at increased risk of developing anxiety and depression. They may feel unsafe and insecure, constantly worried about when the next violent incident will occur. This can lead to chronic anxiety and depression, which can impact their ability to form healthy relationships and cope with the challenges of daily life.
- Low Self-Esteem
- Children who grow up in abusive households may also struggle with low self-esteem. They may feel like they are to blame for the abuse, or that they are not deserving of love and respect. This can impact their self-image and their ability to develop healthy self-esteem and confidence.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Children who experience or witness domestic abuse are also at increased risk of developing PTSD. Symptoms of PTSD can include flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, and avoidance of triggers that remind them of the abuse. These symptoms can persist for years after the abuse has ended, making it difficult for children to cope with the trauma they have experienced.
- Behavioral Problems
- Children who experience or witness domestic abuse may also develop behavioral problems. They may become aggressive, withdrawn, or exhibit other disruptive behaviors in an effort to cope with the trauma they have experienced. These behavioral problems can impact their ability to succeed in school and form healthy relationships with their peers.
- Substance Abuse
- According to the Childhood Domestic Violence Association, children who grow up in abusive households are 50% more likely to develop substance abuse problems later in life. They may turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to cope with the trauma they have experienced, or as a way to escape their feelings of anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.
- Difficulty with Relationships
- Children who grow up in abusive households may also struggle to form healthy relationships as adults. They may struggle with trust issues and have difficulty forming emotional connections with others. They may also struggle with intimacy, feeling uncomfortable or unsafe when they are vulnerable with others.
How to Help
If a child has witnessed domestic abuse, it's important to ensure their immediate safety and provide emotional support, letting them know they are not alone and encouraging them to talk about their feelings. It's important to explain to the child that the abuse is not their fault and that they have the right to be safe. Seeking professional help from a therapist or counselor who specializes in working with children who have witnessed domestic abuse can provide additional emotional support and help the child process their experiences. It's crucial to take the child's concerns seriously and provide ongoing support as needed, as witnessing domestic abuse can have a lasting impact on a child's mental and emotional well-being.
Is Recovery Possible?
With the right support and resources, children can recover from the trauma of witnessing domestic abuse. Most studies suggest that early intervention and support can help mitigate the effects of witnessing abuse at an early age. Therapy can be an effective way to help children process their experiences and develop healthy coping mechanisms. Ultimately, the road to recovery for children who have witnessed domestic abuse may be a long one, but with the right help and support, it is possible.
How to Get Help
The National Domestic Violence Hotline is a confidential resource designed to educate survivors and connect them with the resources they need to thrive. Visit thehotline.org, call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), or text “START” to 88788 to connect with a trusted advocate.
Click here to learn more about reporting domestic abuse safely.