Children are deeply affected by domestic violence in the household, whether they are receiving physical mistreatment themselves or not. For them, seeing a parent being abused or abusing another has terrible short and long term effects. One of the worst parts can be the confusion. Parents are supposed to know what is right and be able to model that behavior. Children love their parents, in most cases unconditionally. This can be confusing to feel love, which is good, for a person who behaves badly. Then it can become even more confusing while the child is deeply entrenched in the cycle of violence. Yes, they may see a parent hitting or being struck. Yes, this is upsetting and makes their brains release harmful stress responses that can produce a “fight or flight” response. Yes, they can also see the abuser express forgiveness, shame, and then treat the family very well for some time. This is called the “honeymoon” phase of the cycle. Children, perhaps even more than adult victims, desperately want to believe that there will be change, that their abusive parent or role model is able to maintain the happy home. The NCADV states that, “1 in 15 children are exposed to intimate partner violence each year, and 90% of these children are eyewitnesses to this violence.”
Rise Magazine, a magazine written by and for parents who have had their children removed from their care, does a great job addressing this in their article entitled ‘I am Free Now.’ It gives a first person point a view from a woman who became the target of domestic violence and then who watched as her children became victims as well. In the article she details her journey from the abusive relationship, how she first sought help, and where her family is now.
It can be difficult, almost impossible, to completely understand domestic violence without someone who has lived it sharing their story. CASA would like to thank Ms. Gabriel for her bravery in sharing hers. Materials like this help us better serve other children experiencing similar issues. Domestic violence is one of the many reasons children become involved in the system and appointed CASA/GALs. To read Alicia Gabriel’s story click here. To learn more about CASA or to become a volunteer visit BooneCountyCASA.org.