Not all children have the wonderful childhood we all hope to provide for our own children. Many children live in fear and neglect, and each year, approximately 3.3 million children experience some form of domestic violence. Therefore, June has been established as the National Children’s Awareness Month to increase awareness about the vulnerability of children exposed to violence.
Domestic violence is the single most important forerunner to child abuse and 30 to 60 percent of perpetrators of partner abuse also abuse the children in the household. Child abuse may occur at any time between infancy and adolescence, and for every hour, as many as 115 children are abused.
Children who witness violent and abusive behavior in the home are the most likely individuals to become perpetrators of domestic violence in the future. Men who are exposed to domestic violence in childhood are twice as likely to abuse their own partner and children, while women experiencing abuse in childhood are more likely to become victims of domestic violence in the future.
While 90 percent of children from violent homes witness their fathers beating their mothers, batterers often use unsupervised visits as an opportunity to psychologically abuse their children. This is often done in an effort to continue terrorizing the mother. These children tend to report stomach aches, diarrhea, nightmares, bedwetting, and violent behaviors against siblings and caretakers both before and after the visits.
Children react differently to abuse depending on age and gender. They may experience emotional, social, behavioral, and/or physical disturbances. Common effects on children include anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, post-traumatic stress disorder, self-blaming, and self-destructive behaviors. Moreover, abused children are arrested by the police four times more often than non-abused children. A major issue is the failure among children to report crimes of domestic violence or sexual abuse due to shame, fear of retaliation, or fear of not being believed.
Children who have lived with violence need intervention even if you think they did not witness the violence. Hubbard House’s HARK (Helping at Risk Kids) program is a therapeutic intervention and prevention program designed to empower children from abusive homes, consisting of a 12-week course. The children, ages 4-17, are separated into age-appropriate groups. Heavy emphasis is placed on breaking the cycle of violence by teaching anger management, non-violent conflict resolution, and respect for others. The development of individualized safety plans — strategies that each child can use should violence recur in their homes — is another critical element of the curriculum. Facilitators work closely with the parent to ensure the greatest benefit to the child.
For more information regarding the HARK program and outreach services or to make an appointment for your child please call (904) 400-6300.
No child deserves to be abused! If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship please call the Hubbard House domestic violence hotline at (904) 354-3114 or (800) 500-1119.
ABOUT HUBBARD HOUSE
Founded in 1976, Hubbard House is a certified, comprehensive domestic violence center providing programs and services to more than 6,000 women, children and men annually in Duval and Baker counties. While Hubbard House is most known for its emergency shelter, the agency also provides extensive adult and youth outreach services, school-based education, therapeutic child care, batterers’ intervention programs, court advocacy and volunteer and community education opportunities. Visit www.hubbardhouse.org to learn more.
By Vicky Krook