This October here at Thompson we have been taking time to observe Domestic Violence Awareness month. Every day our staff witness the devastating toll domestic violence has on its victims. What is often less spoken about is the affects domestic violence has on the entire family unit.
I just left a local domestic violence shelter, where children largely outnumber the mothers. According to National statistics, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. That’s roughly 10 million women and men each year. Domestic violence can manifest itself in many ways: physical violence, emotional abuse, stalking, and threats. In extreme cases, it can even result in violent crimes such as rape or homicide.
According to these same studies, 1 in 5 children are exposed to intimate partner violence each year, and 90% of these kids are eyewitnesses to this violence. This actually lends itself to more children in foster care than need to actually be there. In my 24 years as a human services professional, I have seen first hand how child welfare systems react to children that witness domestic violence in the home. Unfortunately, systems can often re-traumatize children in an effort to “protect” them by removing them from both victim and the perpetrator. This practice can and must stop in an effort mitigate trauma and allow the victim and the child to access the needed services to be safe and ensure well-being.
So how does a family recover from so much trauma? How do we break the cycle of violence in the home? One of the most important points we try to communicate through family education is that children believe what they see at home is the normal standard for behavior. This means that children who experience violence in the home are fiercely impacted by it. But the effects of violence are not a life sentence. The difference maker comes when you break through the secrecy that often hides violence in the home from the outside world. Children who are given outlets, such as counseling, that allow them to cope with the trauma of living in a violent home can create healthy processing of these experiences and drastically reduce their chances of carrying on the legacy of violence into their future homes.
If you or a loved one is caught in an abusive situation know that there are resources who are ready and willing to help. The first step is making sure you are safe. Here are some resources here in North and South Carolina that can help safely remove you from the violence in your home.
The next step is difficult, but it’s the key to ensuring that the violence doesn’t linger in your family like a cancer. When considering resources to help you heal, it’s imperative you seek help for the entire family unit. They key to healing is focusing on positive family relationships. Trauma early in a child’s life can also result in developmental delays, so making sure your child is receiving early childhood educational supports will also ensure they’re put back on the track towards success.
Thompson’s Child Development Center and Community Counseling Center offer services that focus directly on reversing the impacts of adverse childhood experiences and family violence. Allow us to help you heal and we promise to work tirelessly to ensure your families success.
In honor of this month, we invite everyone to take the pledge to help Thompson protect our community and be an ally to the victims of domestic violence. Take the pledge here and share it with others. You never know who might need to hear your message of support.