Children: the other victims of domestic violence

Jamaica was good at hiding the truth. Her coworkers at a Nashville-based corporation didn’t know. Her neighbors never suspected. Even her friends weren’t aware because she hid the tell-tale signs of her husband’s escalating physical and emotional abuse so well.

But she couldn’t hide the violence from her four children. They saw it all — their father’s angry outbursts, how he broke their toys and other household items and the bruises on their mother’s body.

Jamaica’s children are not alone. One in 15 children are exposed to intimate partner violence each year, and 90 percent of these children are eyewitnesses to this violence, reports the Metro Nashville Police Department. Without help, boys who witness domestic violence are far more likely to become abusers of their partners and/or children as adults, continuing the cycle of violence in the next generation. Even as bystanders to domestic and family violence, children may experience psychological traumatization as if abused themselves.

When Jamaica eventually divorced her abusive husband, she turned to the professionals at The Family Center to help her children recover from the prolonged stress of witnessing domestic violence. Her normally well-behaved son had become aggressive at school. Another child was wetting the bed.

In addition to participating in a domestic violence support group, Jamaica attended a six-week session of The Family Center’s Nurturing Home class with her children. Now, family counselors are collaborating with her one-on-one in her home to establish new routines that stress alone time and promote bonding with each child.

“Routines help children feel safe and secure because they know what is coming next,” said Jessica Prior, lead teacher/family counselor at The Family Center.

Jamaica is already seeing positive results. “My children’s behavior has improved by 50 percent since I have been working with The Family Center. I am very grateful.”

Learn more about how The Family Center helps women and their children cope with stress associated with domestic violence.