How does domestic abuse affect children?
Millions of children experience direct physical harm by an abusive parent, and approximately 3.3 million witness abuse in their homes each year.
- Exposure to the physical or emotional abuse of a parent has many of the same effects as being a direct target.
- When one parent abuses the other, there's a 30-60% chance the children are also being abused.
- The effects of being exposed to abuse can be severe and long lasting, impairing a child's ability to communicate with others and to form healthy relationships.
- When children live with abuse, they learn that violence is an acceptable way to resolve conflict.
Is a child you know living with abuse? Red flags to watch for...
- Wears dirty clothing
- Often has unexplained injuries
- Acts shy, withdrawn, or too eager to please
- Avoids going home
- Wears long-sleeved clothing in warm weather
- Talks about abuse
- Seems nervous and fearful
- Exhibits overactive or destructive behaviors
- Acts afraid to be touched by an adult
- Always searching for food, favors, or services
- Has difficulty getting along with other children
- Shows constant anxiety
- Seems depressed
- Exhibits a very low sense of self-worth
How can you help? Appropriate responses...
- Help the child think of a safe place to go when fighting or abuse begins.
- Warn him against attempts to stop the fighting. Make it clear it's good he wants to stop it, but intervening isn't safe.
- Make sure he has access to a phone and knows how to call 911. Ask if he/she feels safe calling 911 if needed. If not, ask who he can call or what she can do instead.
- Make sure she knows it's not her fault.
- Try not to pass judgment on the abuser -- kids often love the person who's doing the hurting.
- Ask who in the family is most often abused.
- Ask if there's someone he can talk to about the problem, like a teacher, the other parent, a caregiver, counselor, etc.
- Tell her she's not alone.
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