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Estimates are that more than three million children in the U.S. are exposed to family violence or domestic abuse each year. This means either seeing, or hearing, actual abuse or the aftermath of abuse. This is a very disturbing statistic. Especially because professionals note that domestic violence and child abuse are often present in the same house. Studies have shown that 60 to 75 percent of families in which a woman is battered, children are also battered. Children are also at a higher risk of sexual abuse in violent households. Consider the following:

Children who have witnessed abuse often suffer low self-esteem, depression, stress disorders, poor impulse control and feelings of powerlessness. They are at high risk for alcohol and drug use, sexual acting out, running away, isolation, fear, and suicide (Jaffe, Wolfe & Wilson, Children of Battered Women).

Children of battered women are fifteen times more likely to be battered than children whose mothers are not abused.

Children often blame themselves for their mother's abuse.

Children of battered women suffer "survivor guilt" because they must watch helplessly while their mother is beaten and can do nothing to save her.

The effects of domestic violence varies a great deal from child to child. The attributes that give a child the best chance of surviving a violent household unscathed are average or above-average intellectual development and good interpersonal skills. Children in families where domestic violence is present are forced to grow up more quickly than their peers. They often take on duties such as cooking and caring for younger children in the family. These children donít get to experience a normal childhood. They naturally donít trust their fathers. They may become isolated, afraid to invite friends over to their house because they never know what to expect at home. Children in families with domestic violence tend to either be extremely introverted or extremely extroverted. Surprisingly, schoolwork is not always affected, and in fact, some children may respond by becoming overachievers and doing quite well in school. However, other children develop psychosomatic problems, eating and sleeping patterns are disrupted or they develop aches and pains for no physical reason. Taking that first step for help is very difficult, but many women are often moved to do so, if not for themselves, then for their children.


 


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