Let’s talk about Domestic Violence for our Children

When parents fight, they don’t realize that two innocent eyes are watching them


If you happen to come from a happy family, let me tell you how lucky you are. You may not have realized it but you have access to something which many children are deprived of- happiness and peace in the households.

Domestic violence is an epidemic that has been plaguing families worldwide across cultures. It is just not restricted to the threat, torture, beatings, emotional and mental trauma, sexual and physical assaults, it also includes establishing fear, breaking the other person’s strength by making them feel worthless and keeping them isolated in hostile conditions. Often one partner tries to control the other by establishing a power dynamic which is difficult to revoke.

While domestic violence is directed towards the partner, it inevitably hurts the children in the family, sometimes even the unborn ones. Children are the silent sufferers in this household tragedy, their parents don’t make them feel safe and they have no other place to go. These children are abused in the process, neglected and their spirit suffers a setback for life.

When we talk about domestic violence, the victims are often thought to be men or women who face abuse. Various countries have passed laws to curb this social evil but no law takes into account the plight of young children who witness this harrowing tragedy day in and day out in close proximity.

Oftentimes, parents have no conscious realization of its after effects on their children. They are so involved in their own struggle, anger, resentment, and challenge of survival, that little to no thought is given to how this ugly scenario is manifesting itself onto young impressionable minds. Children from abused families have every chance of becoming an impaired soul, including but not limited to following-

  1. These children tend to become fearful, anxious and worried. They are always looking out for the next outburst, not knowing when and what to expect.
  2. They do not have a sense of normalcy in family life like others and hence, have an increased likelihood of feeling isolated among others, not able to make close friends in order to keep their family life secret.
  3. They have no parent to fall back on for emotional support, as one is an abuser and other is the victim. They find themselves ignored and are not able to form close ties with the family.
  4. Avoiding people at one hand, they also simultaneously become susceptible to fall for false overtly loving gestures of someone, only to find themselves exploited by them later. In their secret quest for love and acceptance, their judgment gets impaired. They are, therefore, more likely to be exploited physically and emotionally by putting their trust in wrong people.
  5. While boys might go on to imitate the abusive parent, become more aggressive and unjust, girls go on to become suppressed, silent with low self-esteem.
  6. Physically these children may find themselves suffering from stomachaches and headaches, stress is known to affect our gut bacteria and thus our physical well-being. These children are also prone to bed wetting.
  7. These children are at an increased risk of going through psychological trauma and behavioral issues. Depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, nightmares, tendency to please everybody, aggression, delayed development, short attention spans are some of the common issues faced by them.
The scars left by violence and abuse are permanent

So much can be written about the mental and emotional trauma faced by these kids, the underlining is these kids feel homeless in a home. They feel lonely and unwanted. They are always living in their own world, a world full of noises, terror and uncertainties. Not only their vulnerabilities play out in every thought and action of theirs, they also go on to grow without self-respect. They feel judged, insecure and worthless.

They feel torn and crushed in their desire to love their family while they might actually hate it. This dual faced life is challenging, to balance the emotions outside with the turmoil inside. The tension in their life is palpable in the decisions they take and the relationships they make. There are traces of conflict in their thought process and personality, shifting gears from being possessive of someone to abandoning them with no emotions. Their clarity of thought is coagulated with a mist of self-doubt, need for sympathy and desire to come across as just and righteous. They hold onto their stories because of guilt, shame, and fear of rejection and ridicule.The ramifications of their weakness can be varied, while some can go on to become violent and aggressive, others turn out to be a people pleaser with no ability to take on confrontations.

Parents involved in violence and abuse often say the nastiest things to their children in misplaced anger. Children tend to become a target of their foul language, violent behavior, and unreasonable expectations. Imagine a kid who just witnessed a violent episode and goes on to get beaten and shouted at for no fault of his/her. This reminds me of the movie ‘Moonlight’ where the lead actor suffers his childhood because of a drug addict single mother. The movie explains perfectly how the reasons behind emotional abuse faced by a kid can be so varied and yet so connected.

The sign of great parenting is not a child’s behavior, the sign of truly great parenting is parent’s behavior-Andy Smithson

As parents, if we decide to have children, it is our first and foremost responsibility to provide them safe and nurturing upbringing. We always have to be conscious about the environment we create for our kids because broken souls don’t repair easily.

Studies show that domestic violence can affect child mortality rates too. Seetha Menon, a Ph.D. scholar from Univ. of Essex compiled data that shows one in ten death of infants could be related to domestic violence during or post pregnancy in rural India. The resultant psychological stress can also cause low birth weight or preterm delivery, risk factors leading to infant death. This is an excerpt from her study-

My study used India’s 2007 National Family and Health Survey which interviewed 124,385 women between 16–49 years of age. My statistical analysis based on this survey indicates that nearly one in ten deaths before the age of one — 8.9% of infant deaths — could be attributed to domestic violence against the mother during the marriage.

It is not just the victim of abuse who needs help but also the children in the family. Around 30% of women worldwide suffer from domestic violence and abuse, and there is no clear data on male victims. There is also no data on the number or percentage of children who are exposed to such unhealthy and toxic family environment. We need to reach out to these young observant minds and try to make them feel safe and looked after.

Families suffering from domestic violence and abuse often stay shut, it is considered shameful to talk about it. People and kids of such families often keep this as a secret to avoid humiliation and embarrassment, they might appear normal in appearance but they are terrible inside. This chaos and mess makes them isolated and weak.

As parents, friends of parents, neighbors, extended family or even as a stranger, we need to be watchful and try to help such children in need. It is the collective responsibility of society to ensure each and every child is happy and healthy. We have to encourage them to come out in open and seek help, instead of internalizing this struggle and feeling helpless. These children are our future , and a strong future builds on strong foundation.

It can’t be emphasized enough that our children need happy and secured family, a family full of love and understanding, a family that nurtures bonding. If you are an abused partner and you continue in an abusive relationship, it is wrong for your children at so many levels. Abused partners should come out in open and seek help, both for themselves and their children. The notion of staying together because of kids is a myth and an excuse to put up with shit. Kids will be better off if their parents are separated but happy rather than struggling in a forever disgruntled family. Parenthood requires a lot of reflection on our part, because what we sow is what we reap.

Children thrive in safe and secure surroundings

For two days I have ruminated on how I should end this post, only to realize there is no end, as of now, so I will leave it the way it lingers in my life, unsettled, disturbing and incomplete.

If you liked what you read, please share love by pressing the green ❤ . If you didn’t like because you can’t relate to it, I would still urge you to press the heart so that it reaches the right audience, those children who need assurance that they are not alone and those parents who should be more watchful of their behavior.

Thank you.