When we usually think of domestic violence we think of the victim who is usually a helpless woman being hit by a strong man. We think of him abusing her with words, actions, looks, threats, and more. Very few people actually talk about what impact domestic violence has for the kids who are involved in this situation. You see we tend to overlook them because they are young and malleable, but are they really? Many cases of domestic violence have shown that those who witness domestic violence themselves will either take the same pattern on without realizing it or they will hate it. Most likely the child will unknowingly have picked up a trait, such as threatening, being dominant, verbally abusive, hit- but not at the extreme that they saw, humiliate a person, intimidate them, or even isolate them. Again the sad part is that they don’t want to be like this, but after years of exposure in a home of domestic violence, these traits sort of get ingrained in them without them even trying.
In 2009, it was estimated that as many as 7 to 14 million children are exposed to domestic violence, falling victim to its effects in the United States.([Edleson, J. L., Ellerton, A. L., Seagren, A. E., Kirchberg, S. O., & Ambrose, A. T. (2007). Assessing child exposure to adult domestic violence. Children and Youth Services Review, 29(7), 961-971.]) I will be going over the impact on children who are in domestic violence situations: such as what happens to them cognitively, behaviorally and long-term. I will conclude what we each need to do to help a child if their in a domestic violent situation, inshAllaah.
Most kids who are in a situation of domestic violence will have lower cognitive skills in school and life. Their grades will be lower than the average. It will be as if they are not paying attention, or grasping the information. Kids with lower cognitive skills will also not know how to come up with a resolution plan for a conflict. It might baffle them to think that a conflict can be solved in other ways than fighting, yelling and hitting. Their thinking that violence is ok is sad enough. It is also in this area that they think and believe in gender stereotypes. Such as the survival of the strongest. Again their thoughts are all shaped based on what they experience not what is reality.
Some of the behavioral problems that they experience are higher levels of aggression. Aggressive children are not fun to watch or be around. As a matter of fact every time I see a child who is aggressive, I can’t help but think what they might be facing. Two more behavioral problems that many kids have from situation of domestic violence are showing anger and hostility to others. Again learning from only what they have witnessed over and over. Fear and anxiety are other ways some kids express themselves going through this situation. They will jump if they hear a loud banging noise or yelling. Some kids will be more anxious, trying to finish things quickly, or always in a hurry. While other kids exhibit withdrawal and depression. They just want to be alone and think about their situation without talking to others. A great example of this is the story of Maya Angelou who was a victim of abuse, and it shut her down from speaking for years to come. Some kids also have poor relationship skills with peers, siblings and others. Mostly this is from low self-esteem.
Then we have the long-term problems that arise. Some of those are they themselves using domestic violence in their homes. Whether it is male or female. The females usually use abusive language and might overpower the kids. A lot of people do not realize that domestic violence, can lead women to the wrong path as it does men, although they might each express it a bit different. Many people overlook that women too can be affected by being in homes of domestic violence. Just like molestation, some people hate it and would never do it to anyone else or let someone do it to someone they know, while others repeat the same horrible act. As for the young boys who experience it, many of them again hate it, while others repeat what they saw, may Allaah guide us all! Ameen.
Now that we all know the effects of domestic violence on our children, how can we help those who have been through situations such as this to not repeat the same cycle and to also gain self-esteem, and try to live a normal life without going through the same cycle of violence. Here are some tips that parents/ counselors/ or others who want to help a Domestic Violence child can do inshAllaah:
- Talk to the child about his/her feelings.
- Let them know it is not their fault.
- Listen to the Child, when he or she is ready to talk.
- Let them know that violence is not OK.
The list could be much longer, and in workshops we go through much more; however I am ending on the note that children are affected deeply by Domestic Violence, and we need to do a lot more than talking with them, we need to show them through our actions, how else we can solve problems and what a good situation looks like versus a bad one. InshAllaah.
Ms. Zohra Sarwari
Zohra Sarwari is an author of 11 books, author of 3 Homeschooling Curriculums, international speaker, entrepreneur, publisher, and teacher to 3 kids, while raising a 16 month old. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology, a Master’s Degree in Business Administration, and she is currently taking classes for Islamic Studies. She has been seen on CBS, FOX News, and many other TV channels. She has also been interviewed in many Magazines, Newspapers, and Radio Shows. She speaks at many of the best Colleges and Universities. Her 3 children have authored 10 books together.