When we think of victims of domestic violence, the first people who come to mind are usually the women who suffer at the hands of their husbands or boyfriends. While it is true that women are most often the ones who are physically harmed in these situations, they are not the only ones who suffer. The silent victims of domestic violence are the children who witness it happening.
Children Who Witness Domestic Violence Suffer Emotional and Behavioral Problems
According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, "children who grow up witnessing abuse may think that hitting or yelling is a normal way to resolve disagreements." They may also have trouble trusting people, struggle with relationships, and have a difficult time controlling their emotions. In addition, they may exhibit behavioral problems such as aggression, anxiety, and withdrawn behavior.
These problems can persist into adulthood if they go unsupported. According to the Mayo Clinic, "adult survivors of childhood trauma are more likely to experience unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, drinking excessively, promiscuity, binge eating, and using drugs." They may also have a hard time maintaining healthy relationships and keeping a job. Often, these problems lead to a cycle of violence where the child grows up to be an abuser themselves.
Children Who Witness Domestic Violence Need Support
If you suspect that a child you know is witnessing domestic violence, there are ways you can help. The first step is to talk to them about what they are seeing and let them know that it is not their fault. It is also important to provide them with support and resources so they can get help for any emotional or behavioral problems they may be experiencing. And finally, make sure they know that they can come to you if they need someone to talk to.
Children who witness domestic violence suffer just as much as the victims themselves, even though their suffering is often unseen. These children need our support so they can grow into healthy adults who break the cycle of violence. If you suspect a child, you know is witnessing domestic violence, don't hesitate to reach out and offer help.