Domestic violence is a very real and significant problem. Unfortunately, children are victims of domestic violence too, even if they are not physically harmed. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence estimates that “1 in 15 children are exposed to intimate partner violence each year, and 90% of these children are eyewitnesses to this violence.” For children, exposure to domestic violence can be life altering, and not in a positive trajectory.
Domestic Violence is Terrifying for Children
Developmentally, children need safety and stability. Domestic violence destroys both of these essentially needs. According to a heartbreaking 2011 Department of Justice research study, in response to witnessing domestic violence, “[a]lmost one-half of the youth surveyed reported yelling to try to stop the violence or trying to get away from the violence”, “49.9 percent of exposed youth had yelled at their parents to stop at least once”, “43.9 percent had tried to get away at least once”, and 23.6 percent tried calling for help.
The National Child Traumatic Stress Network notes that in the short term, domestic violence exposure has the following effects on children: (1) anxiety; (2) sleep problems; (3) nightmares; (4) lack of concentration; (5) high activity and energy levels; (6) aggression; (7) separation anxiety; and (8) concerns about a parent’s safety and their own safety.
In the long term, the following additional effects often appear: (1) antisocial behavior; (2) school truancy and poor school performance; (3) substance abuse; (4) running away; (5) depression; and (6) withdrawal.
Beyond these very serious symptoms and without significant therapeutic intervention, children are more likely to grow into adults with problems. This is because they have been exposed to significant trauma during critical stages of their development, when they should be learning about healthy coping tools, trust, and relationships. Instead, children who witness domestic violence have been shown more likely to be in violent relationships. This is because they equate loving relationships with domestic violence. In addition, children who are exposed to domestic violence are more likely to themselves be abusers. This is because they learn by example that it is acceptable to use physical and emotional abuse as coping and communication methods.
If you and your children are being exposed to domestic violence, you need help. There are many agencies throughout North Carolina that offer domestic violence crisis intervention, shelter, and counseling. Please seek help to create a safe plan for yourself and your children. In addition, the attorneys at New Direction Family Law advocate for victims of domestic violence and know how to seek orders to protect you and your children. We serve Wake, Johnston, Lee, Harnett, Cumberland, Nash, Granville, Franklin, and Durham counties. Call New Direction Family Law today at (919) 719-3470 to arrange a discreet consultation, or visit us online at our website.
Sarah J. Hink
New Direction Family Law