Domestic violence

Shadows of adults arguing and a child with her head down in a chair.

Domestic violence

“911, What’s your emergency?” 

Sobbing, “Mommy and Daddy are fighting.”

The call continues for over 8 minutes as the young child alternately begs for the police to come, cries, and tries to protect her younger siblings. 

We use this recording each time we train new volunteer advocates.  It is heart-wrenching, and it is real.  This particular 911 call was released with the permission of the now grown child.  She wants people to understand the impact of domestic abuse on children. 

This isn’t a rare occurrence, the UN Secretary-General’s Study on Violence Against Children conservatively estimates that 275 million children worldwide are exposed to violence in the home.  That is millions of children hiding behind couches, secreting themselves in closets or under covers, putting their hands over their ears and humming to try to block out the sound, jumping into the fray to attempt to protect the parent being abused, and making 911 calls.

Domestic violence, also referred to as intimate partner violence, doesn’t just occur between the abuser and the abused.  It has profound effects on the entire household.  One study found that witnessing domestic violence is sufficient to cause posttraumatic stress syndrome.  Children may experience fear of harm, anxiety, depression, inability to experience empathy, poor judgement, etc.  And in homes with domestic violence, children are at a much higher rate to experience child abuse. 

Children are always learning from their environment and they learn from witnessing domestic violence.  A troubling long-term effect is that boys witnessing domestic violence, often become either offenders themselves or victims, and girls often become victims. 

So, what exactly is domestic violence?  Domestic violence is about power and control.  It is defined as a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain control over another intimate partner.  The abuse can be physical, sexual, or emotional. The abuser can be male or female.

So, why doesn’t the person experiencing the abuse just leave?  That is a complicated question.  The victim may be financially dependent on the abuser, they may be afraid of worse abuse if they attempt to leave, they may be isolated from others, they may be afraid of losing custody of children, they might even love their abuser. 

Statistically, the victim is at a greater risk for serious harm or even death when they are planning to leave or leave the abusive situation.

It sounds very dire and it is.  However, there are local resources for victims of domestic violence with trained professionals ready to help.  Anyone experiencing domestic violence, can contact the 24-hour National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE).

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