How domestic violence affects the family home

Domestic abuse is still a serious problem in the UK, with over 2,000 cases reported daily in England and Wales. The effects of domestic abuse are not restricted to the victim – it can have a huge impact on the whole family. Although prosecution rates are up the recession seems to have ensured domestic abuse is, too. The National Centre for Domestic Violence claims that levels have increased by 17 per cent since the downturn.

Domestic violence has a huge impact on the victim’s mental health. Women who have suffered abuse are more likely to lose their jobs due to frequent absences for illness as a result of the violence, and will often be taciturn, leading their employers to trust them less. Victims also suffer a loss of confidence as a result of the abuse and so finding further employment can be difficult. The perpetrators of domestic violence will often try to isolate their victims from family and friends and so finding help and support can be impossible.

Domestic violence towards mothers also has an influence on children, and boys who have an abusive father are more likely to inflict violence on others as adults. Research has also shown that girls who see their father abuse their mother are more likely to tolerate it as an adult, and so the cycle continues.

Children will often feel guilty, being unable to help their mother, and experience confusion, stress, fear and shame which cause emotional problems later in life. Fear of adults, inability to care for other people, difficulty making friends and other emotional problems develop as a direct result of witnessing domestic abuse and can stay with children for life.

As well as the mother, children, depressingly, are 1,500 times more likely to be abused in household where abuse already occurs. There is a positive correlation between domestic abuse and juvenile delinquency, sexual assault crimes, drug abuse and even suicide, so it is not just the physical scars they carry with them to later life.

The government is currently cracking down on domestic abuse and has recently opened the National Centre for Domestic Abuse in Blackburn. The only way to stop domestic violence is to encourage all victims to come out and help bring the perpetrators to justice. If you are a victim, or know someone who is, there is lots of help available. Divorce advice and other forms of support should be sought also. It is never an easy thing to do, but by taking a positive step and potentially helping to put an end to domestic abuse, thousands of lives may be saved.

Children who grow up in violent homes have much higher risks of becoming drug or alcohol abusers or being involved in abusive relationships – as an abuser or a victim. Children do not have to be abused themselves in order to be impacted by violence in the home. The only answer to this problem is to treat domestic violence for what it is – a crime. We must fight the societal values that reinforce stereotypes that encourage men to act aggressively and use violence to solve problems and that women are weak and submissive and should accept male dominance as the norm. Children must be taught early about non-violent conflict resolution. In homes where domestic violence occurs, fear, instability, and confusion replace the love, comfort, and nurturing children need.

These children live in constant fear of physical harm from the person who is supposed to care for and protect them. They may feel guilt at loving the abuser or blame themselves for causing the violence.

Based on interviews with children in battered women’s shelters, 85 per cent had stayed twice with friends or relatives because of the violence, and 75 per cent over 15 had run away at least twice.  (Maria Roy, Children in the Crossfire, 1988.)

Children in homes where domestic violence occurs are physically abused or seriously neglected at a rate 1500 per cent higher than the national average. (National Woman Abuse Prevention Project, Washington, D.C.)

“Boys who witness family violence are more likely to batter their female partners as adults, and girls who witness their mother’s abuse have a higher rate of being battered as adults. These common sense observations are fact, not myth. “ (Battered Families . . . Shattered Lives, Georgia Department of Human Resources Family Violence Manual, January 1992.)

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