What Happens to Child Witnesses of Domestic Violence

Posted by Joseph Franks on March 1st, 2020

Millions of children in the U.S are exposed to domestic violence on a daily basis, and many of them are victims of physical abuse as well. Research shows that witnessing domestic violence affects a child’s mental health the same way as suffering it. Growing up in a toxic environment has a direct impact on brain development, and the child remains unsheltered even when he/she is unconscious or asleep. Family Law Attorney in New Jersey suggests that a parent experiencing domestic abuse may not acknowledge the extent of harm to their child. He/she deems that children are protected as long as they are not directly involved in the violent episodes, but unfortunately, it does not work that way.

What Children See

Two partners in an intimate relationship need to maintain their rights and treat each other as equals. When one attempts to exercise dominance and the other gives in, it transforms into consent for violent behavior or abuse. Domestic violence takes multiple forms, but generally, the offender wants to possess full control over the victim’s life. Emotional abuse includes constant arguments, verbal fights, cursing/explicit language, threats to kill, insults/demeaning statements, blackmail, etc. Factors like drinking, drug abuse, and financial constraints play a huge role in promoting these situations. Most cases of domestic violence begin with mental torture that develops into physical aggression, giving rise to beatings and sexual assault.

Parental Neglect

The oppressed parent is unable to distinguish between ‘personal needs’ and ‘what is best for the child’. Such mothers or fathers are emotionally unavailable because they themselves are exhausted and in need of some moral support. They are so caught up dealing with their own issues that they fail to recognize the distress of their children. Even if a child tries to express how he/she feels, they will not know how to respond or pay proper attention. On the other hand, the offensive parent is overwhelmed by antagonism, so he/she cannot think clearly or sympathize with the collateral damage. The child’s subconscious continuously absorbs the day-to-day events, and haunting memories carve into his/her brain.

Personality Development

Childhood is a time through which we are constantly observing, exploring, and learning. Our habitat and the lifestyle of our guardians have a profound influence over who we become. Not every child is the same, so how he/she perceives everything depends on the level of intellect and forbearance. Some kids are too mature for their age, while others have a frail heart and lack a coping mechanism. Most children who regularly witness physical violence grow up to be timid and anxious, lacking any sense of self-esteem and confidence. These kids are likely to become easy targets for bullies at school, and have a hard time making friends.

Exposed kids grow up with a bad impression of relationships, so they prefer emotional detachment as they reach adulthood. It depends upon the child, whether he/she takes after the violent or victimized parent; some children with extraordinary IQ are able to escape the loop, but still undergo psychological challenges. Girls are more prone to falling victim, while boys are often inclined towards developing a violent streak. The child may suppose that it is okay to abuse a partner or that being violated is acceptable. The episodes of domestic violence draw a pattern in their mind and they may develop immunity against it. At one point, they are no longer affected by the hostility because they have fostered a heart of stone.


Joseph Franks

About the Author

Joseph Franks
Joined: September 16th, 2019
Articles Posted: 101

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