When people think of domestic violence, they often think of an adult victim, but children are often the innocent bystanders exposed to the violence and trapped in their homes were fear, instability, and confusion replace the love, comfort, safety, and stable nurturing environment children need.
Parents may think that violence does affect their children, but when children see the violence, hear the screams, and see the aftermath the reality is that all children who live with domestic violence are affected by the experience and are at a greater risk of developing serious emotional and behavioral problems.
Short term effect of domestic violence among children:
- Children in preschool. Young children who witness domestic violence may start doing things they used to do when they were younger, such as bed-wetting, thumb-sucking, increased crying, and whining. They may also develop difficulty falling or staying asleep and separation anxiety.
- School-aged children. Children in this age range may feel guilty about the abuse and blame themselves, they may experience headaches and frequent stomachaches. They may lose interest in school activities, have trouble making friends, and may get into trouble more often at school.
- Teens. Teens who witness abuse may act out in negative ways, such as fighting with family members or skipping school. They may also engage in risky behaviors, such as having unprotected sex and using alcohol or drugs. They may have low self-esteem and have trouble making friends, they may start to self-harm, consider suicide, or start running away. They may start fights or bully others and are more likely to get in trouble with the law. Boys who grow up with domestic abuse are more likely to abuse their intimate partners, and girls are less likely to seek help if they become victims in their adult relationships.
Long term effects of domestic violence:
Children who witness or are victims of emotional, physical, or sexual abuse are at higher risk for health problems as adults such as
- ongoing anxiety and depression
- emotional distress
- eating and sleeping disturbances
- find it hard to manage stress
- low self-esteem
- have trouble forming positive relationships
- develop phobias and insomnia
- find it hard to solve problems
- have less empathy and caring for other
- abuse drugs and alcohol
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
If you are a parent who is experiencing abuse, it can be difficult to know how to protect your child and yourself. You can reach out to the Los Alamos Victim Assistant at (505) 663-3511, or via text at (505) 709-8135, in order to discuss your options, including creating a safety plan for you and your children.
If you suspect that a child you know is being abused, you may be the ONLY person to do something about it, don’t hesitate to reach out for help you could be saving a child’s life. Every person who knows or has reasonable suspicion that is being abused or neglected must report:
- CYFD’s Statewide Central Intake child abuse hotline, 1-855-333-SAFE  or #SAFE from a cell phone
- Call your local police
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233