When those you love endure Domestic Violence (DV) every fiber in your being just wants it to stop. At least that has been my experience. I have observed close friends in abusive relationships – in some cases, constantly beaten, in other cases, sporadically. It always seemed easier to explain away the “one off incidents” [at least until it happened again 6 months later]. It has never been easy, however, to explain away the damage done and the scars left – physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually – particularly when children are exposed to this violence.
Approximately 275 million (that’s right MILLION) children around the globe have witnessed Domestic Violence in their homes (UNICEF, Behind Closed Doors, 2012). This is a frightening yet telling number that makes clear: When children witness violence in their homes they are deeply effected. The effects show up as behavior change (irritability, emotional distress, trouble with school work, and lack of focus) and later in life shows up in substance abuse, early pregnancies, and criminal behavior. Finally, this exposure makes it far more likely that violence will resurface in their lives (as future abuser or abused).
According to UNICEF’s Behind Closed Doors report, “Violence in the home is one of the most pervasive human rights challenges of our time. It remains a largely hidden problem that few countries, communities or families openly confront. Violence in the home is not limited by geography, ethnicity, or status; it is a global phenomenon. Several studies also reveal that children who witness domestic violence are more likely to be affected by violence as adults – either as victims or perpetrators.”
The report refers to the children in violent homes as “forgotten victims.” To end Domestic Violence we must remember, acknowledge, and support the children who see this violence and carry it with them (as future abuser and/or abused) for many years to come.
Quick Facts & Stats
- Though men are sometimes victims of DV, women are the vast majority of the time
- 1 in 3 women will be victims of DV
- 1 in 4 while pregnant
- 275 million children have witnessed violence in their homes globally
Additionally, according to the Oklahoma Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, boys who grow up with abuse are:
- Four times more likely to abuse in a dating relationship
- Twenty-five times more likely to commit rape as an adult
- Six times more likely to commit suicide
- One thousand times more likely to commit violent acts against their own children.
If we are to end Domestic Violence then we must begin to provide safe homes for our children. Homes where their security and peace of mind are paramount. Children must be taught that Domestic Violence is wrong and shown that there is never a reason (no matter the circumstance) to beat another human being – much less someone you claim to love. All that said, I understand creating a safe space for children is easier said than done. Because achieving this reality means the adults will need to seek help. The adults (both abuser and abused) will need to confront the violence through truth, therapy, introspection, hard work, and other steps to achieve lasting change. If the adults won’t take these steps for themselves, I’m hoping they will do so for their children.