When a child sees domestic violence… he is changed forever!
As a child, I spent the summers with my grandparents; their home was a safe and loving place that I dearly loved. My grandfather “took the cure”, which is a southern expression for someone who stopped drinking alcohol and replaced it with religion, so there was never any liquor in their Chattanooga, Tennessee home.
When I was about 7 years old, I remember awakening one night to a woman screaming and beating on the front door. My grandparents opened the door to a woman covered in blood begging for help. She said her husband had beaten her in a drunken rage and “this time” she knew he was going to kill her. I remember the puddling blood dripping from her face onto my grandparents doorway and the terrorized woman. It was the most horrible thing I’d ever seen. Where was all the blood coming from?
I remember my grandmother telling me to get a towel from the bathroom and her handing it to the woman. I don’t remember my grandparents calling the police, but I do remember a policeman arriving and the woman begging for help. I also remember the very drunk man stumbling and swaying in the yard.
What I remember most is the police officer doing nothing to help that woman. He told her to stop provoking her husband to anger and to apologize to him and my grandparents for disturbing them. He also told her to clean the blood off “the nice lady’s” steps and go home. I remember the woman on her knees crying trying to clean her blood off the painted doorway of my grandmother’s home and I remember my grandmother stopping her.
My most vivid memory was the horror on the woman’s face as her drunk husband pulled her back to their house by the arm, as the policeman and my grandparents watched in disgust. I never saw those people again, yet I have never forgotten that night.
Domestic Violence and Battered Wife Syndrome
The number of incidents of domestic violence is staggering. It is estimated that physical violence occurs in about four to six million relationships each year in the U. S. A full quarter of American women will experience abuse in their lifetimes. Worldwide, at least one-third of women have been beaten, raped, or abused, and the perpetrator is often a member of her own family.
Domestic violence affects families from affluent communities and those from poor ones, the educated and non-educated, varying ethnicities, and those who are heterosexual and homosexual. In short, this is a problem that affects families just like yours. The chances are great that you know someone who has been abused by a spouse, partner, boyfriend, or girlfriend, or that you have known this violence.
One of the reasons why domestic violence is so devastating is that it affects the entire family. When there are children involved, they are also victims. Even when they are not physically harmed, they are damaged by the abuse. This is referred to as “secondary domestic violence,” which is extremely detrimental to children’s development. When one parent is being abused, she/he is typically not able to give her/his children the help and support they need. The children, then, are left to handle the emotions and pain on their own. An abusive parent tends to be much less affectionate, available, and supportive than parents in non-abusive households. Also, studies suggest that parents who are abused are more punitive and aggressive towards their children. Not only do children witness abuse, but they have no one to help them.
There are four characteristics of battered women’s syndrome:
The woman believes she is at fault
She is afraid for her life or those of her children
She does not place blame on the abuser
She believes the abuser is both “omnipresent” and “omniscient”
The American Psychological Association classifies battered women’s syndrome as a subgroup of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Women can recover from situations like this and get out of unsafe relationships. It is vitally important for the health and safety of entire families to get out to a safe place and turn to local services for help in recovery. Be assured that you can recover, you can save your children from a similar fate, and you can go on to live a happy and healthy life.
Healing from Abuse
How do you heal from abuse? How do you put your body, heart, and soul back together? First, you need to be out of the situation that has hurt you. It is not possible to heal when you are still being harmed, whether physically, emotionally, or sexually. For instance, if you are in a relationship in which your partner is abusing you, you will not be able to move on if the conditions remain the same. Nor is it possible for children to recover when they regularly see their father beating their mother or their mother berating their father. Leaving a relationship is difficult; perhaps harder, in many ways, than staying. But it is essential to your well-being.
Likewise, if you are an adult survivor of child abuse, you need to be in the right mental space to confront your past. You need to look at what happened and process it in a healthy way. This does not mean, however, that you need to relive any traumatic incidents; the residue of the trauma can be cleared from you with the help of a practitioner without recalling any trauma. Many times, drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, and physical ailments get in the way, and you may need to deal with these immediate problems and get help to get them under control before you confront the deeper issues that caused these problems. Once you are in the right frame of mind, then your journey can begin.
If you are currently in an abusive situation, or if you know someone who is, please get help immediately. Your body’s safety is at stake, and your spirit is in danger. You deserve to live a life free of fear and shame. You deserve a life of truth and healing.