October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. L.A. CADA wants you to know that between 30-60% of adults who perpetrate domestic violence against their partners also abuse children in the household. Children in abusive homes can experience the effects of abuse in multiple ways. They may be indirectly exposed by witnessing or overhearing the abuse, or by noticing bruises and injuries after an act of violence occurs. And they may also experience verbal, physical, emotional, and/or sexual abuse themselves.
Whether directly or indirectly exposed, all youth exposed to domestic violence suffer from the painful effects of that abuse. Even if they themselves are not directly being hurt, they feel the pain and fear that comes from living with someone who is threatening and controlling. Children and youth who witness violence in the home share many similar psychologic effects with children who are directly abused themselves. Both groups are at greater risk for internalized behaviors such as anxiety and depression, and for externalized behaviors such as fighting, bullying, lying, or cheating. Children who witness or experience domestic violence tend to be are more disobedient at home and at school, and they are more likely to have social competence problems, such as poor school performance and difficulty in relationships with others. The evidence suggests that the younger the child was at the onset of the maltreatment, the more likely they are to experience problems later in life.
Abuse and violence are learned behaviors; part of their impact on children can involve taking on a parent’s beliefs that support or tolerate domestic abuse. Children who witness violence at home frequently display inappropriate attitudes about violence as a means of resolving conflict and they indicate a greater willingness to use violence themselves. One study revealed that men who were exposed to physical abuse, sexual abuse, and/or adult domestic violence as children were almost four times more likely than other men to perpetrate domestic violence as adults. And 51% of all adults who were abused as children experienced domestic abuse in later life. What’s worse, child victims of domestic violence are also frequently exposed to co-occurring substance use, mental health disorders, and poverty in the home.
If you know an adult survivor of childhood abuse or violence who is struggling, call L.A. CADA for assistance: (562) 906-2676.
Learn more from: The National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse