It is a myth to think yelling and screaming, pushing, shoving,
throwing of objects and hitting between parents does not affect their children.
Consider the child’s perspective. Children are wholly
dependent upon their parents for safety and security. With violence between
their parents, these children are not only no longer protected but their source
of safety and security is now undermined. What was to be their source of safety
and security are now the very persons from whom the children need protection.
Even when parents think the child is not witness, they area
witness. They hear it from their rooms; they stand out of sight behind closed
doors; they’re sometimes at the foot or top of the stairs. They stand
guard, not knowing what or how to defend their parents.
Children are terrified when their parents fight. Even if
not in the room, they hear the shouts and screams and the hits and falls. They
witness broken objects, holes in walls, not to mention bruises, black eyes and
bloodied noses. Their fear is overwhelming and they carry it with them long
after the violent event. The thoughts haunt both their dreams and waking life.
They space out at school, unable to concentrate, being taken over by memories
of parental violence and fear. They mind wanders to thoughts of how to stop
their parents’ violence or how to protect one from the other.
Unable to tolerate the upset, some children, particularly
young teens, turn to their friends. They slowly discuss the traumatic events,
leaking a little more and a little more. Their friends catch on and feel the
fear in their friends. The fear is palpable. Many of the young friends, not
knowing what to do, may tell a teacher or parent.
The child whose parents are violent grows terrified of the
secret getting out. Some, unable to contain themselves and their fear may resort
to drugs, alcohol, promiscuity or self-mutilation to release their tension.
If you are in a violent relationship, seek help. Women may
call upon women’s shelters. Further, although some people are afraid of
child protective services, they still can refer you to counseling services for
yourself and/or your children.
If you are an adult to whom a child has turned, do not fall
prey to the veil of secrecy. It is secrecy that allows such behavior to continue.
Call child protective services and do the best you can to support the child
as matters unfold. Truly the violence has to stop and it likely will not cease
without intervention. Further, parents and child need support and counseling
to understand how this problem developed, their respective roles and to learn
more appropriate means for conflict resolution.
If not child protective services, you may have to call police.
Do intervene. Again, do not hesitate. A criminal act is being perpetrated and
someone is being assaulted and children as witness to the assault are suffering
their own trauma. Bearing witness to parental violence directly, indirectly,
before during or afterwards is a form of emotional and psychological abuse of
Children whose parents are subject to violent behavior between
themselves, are never able to rest comfortably until long after the violence
Take responsibility to end domestic violence. Don’t
let it continue if it comes to your attention.