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Monday, January 12, 2009

Domestic Violence Is Child Abuse

The article below is written by a mother who is determined to protect her children from the devastating effects of domestic violence.

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Anyone who does not believe domestic violence is child abuse has obviously not seen the damage that is done to children exposed to violence and abuse within the home. One source of danger is crossfire. A child may get caught in the middle. Flying objects, bullets, or fists can place a child in serious physical danger. Children may also attempt to protect their mother and become injured as the perpetrator attempts to force them out of the way.

We have all heard the horrific stories on the news of an abusive father murdering his own children, wife, and then taking his own life as well. These things do happen.

And what about children who witness domestic violence? As children’s brains develop, they are affected by what they see and hear. Trauma interferes with that development. I am not a psychologist, but I am a mother. A child who watches as his father yells, throws things, pushes, grabs, or strangles his mother IS affected. The child may become fearful, insecure, and timid, or the child may begin to imitate those same actions toward younger siblings or even towards his mother. A child may become so conditioned to the father's behavior patterns that he may even go so far as subconsciously understanding "safe" places to play out this behavior.

If the battering father is gentle and kind in public, yet cruel and violent in the privacy of the car and home, you can expect this same behavior out of his son if there is no intervention.

A mother may be accused of not being capable of parenting the children since she is the only one reporting the outrageous behavior of her son after leaving a batterer. If she was unable to change the violent/abusive behavior of her husband, how is she going to be able to change the violent/abusive behavior of her son who is being influenced by his father?

Parenting time between a child and a batterer MUST be limited—and supervised if possible. The courts must step in to protect our children. If a child hears the most influential male role model in his life refer to his mother in demeaning ways such as calling her, "stupid woman," the child will readily accept these words into his own vocabulary and developing belief system.

A mother can work to instill healthy views of men and women into her child, but will not be able to keep the child emotionally safe if the influence remains strong from the violent parent.

Do we have reason to believe an abusive husband will change after his wife leaves the relationship? Of course not. She did not cause him to abuse in the first place. It was something deep within himself that caused him to feel that it was acceptable to treat another person poorly. If he does not release his pent-up aggression on his wife after she leaves the relationship, it is very likely his need to release that aggression will not cease, and the child may become the new target. Lundy Bancroft's book, The Batterer as a Parent, goes into great detail on this subject. Bancroft describes the impossible task of being a mother and trying to productively "co-parent" with a batterer.

Please check out the domestic violence resources listed on The Dorcas Network website ( http://www.TheDorcasNetwork.com/ ). They are very helpful in understanding the dynamics of this destructive epidemic. Abuse can occur with the husband being the victim instead of the wife. Abuse also occurs in unmarried situations. And daughters as well as sons are adversely affected by the influence of violent or abusive fathers.

Marie Green
A Mother Determined to Protect

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