The pain of domestic violence extends beyond the couple involved, as highlighted by Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which is in October of 2015. The hits, screams and other forms of hostility can shake the walls of rooms and the hearts of children. Science indicates children in abusive homes are vulnerable and need protection from mental and physical turmoil. Additionally, mental health assistance may prove necessary for these children as they transition into adulthood.
David A. Wolfe, affiliated with the Center for Addiction and Mental Health at the University of Toronto, worked with colleagues to examine the impact of domestic abuse on children through a meta-analysis of 41 pieces of research.
“Forty of these studies indicated that children’s exposure to domestic violence was related to emotional and behavioral problems, translating to a small overall effect,” the study found.
Another study, this one by Katherine M. Kitzmann, an associate professor of psychology with the University of Memphis, led research on 118 studies examining the connections between domestic violence and childhood troubles. Witnesses had significantly worse mental health outcomes compared to non-witnesses. Bystanders showed little difference in outcome compared to victims of direct abuse.
Sherry Hamby, Ph.D., was surprised to learn that domestic violence is underreported to law enforcement. For those who decide to report domestic violence, the outcome is not always desirable.
“One of the most shocking findings is that less than 2 percent of the cases resulted in jail time for the perpetrator,” Hamby said.
Her findings also revealed children hurt in 1 out of 75 cases but fear and anxiety were nearly universal. More than half feared future abuse or harm. Forty percent of those surveyed indicated that the experience was the most frightening they had lived through.
In conclusion, Hamby noted that “children who witness domestic violence are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, nightmares, teen dating violence and disruptions with school work.”
In cases where adult victims in these cases reached out for domestic abuse advocates, some of them struggled to find help due to transportation, paperwork, and child custody fears. This leads to difficulty when prosecuting abusers. While Hamby found all 50 states allow prosecution of these criminals without the victim’s cooperation; it’s difficult to gather evidence if the victim remains quiet. The fear of repercussions such as further violence and hurtful words can keep the silence drowning the victim.
Sovereign Health Group of Arizona is a women’s only treatment provider dedicated to treating trauma of many kinds, including troubles due to witnessing or receiving domestic violence. Call us today to learn more about our programs and how we can help you.
Written by Nicholas Ruiz, Sovereign Health Group writer
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