Stand Up Against Domestic Violence
The Convention on the Rights of the Child states that the family is “the natural environment for the growth and well-being of all its members, and especially children,” and therefore recognizes that the family has the greatest potential to protect children and ensure their physical and emotional safety.
It is generally accepted that the safest place for a child is his/her home, family. It would seem, indeed, that there are people here next to the child who are called to love and protect him/her, take care of him/her.
Recently, however, more and more often we hear about cases of child abuse by parents and other family members. Violence against children has various forms and is determined by several factors, including the type or personal problems of surrounding adults, family traditions, etc. Moreover, the assertion that such a phenomenon occurs only in socially disadvantaged families is now recognized as a myth.
Often, the preconditions for violence against children are created in the family. For decades, violence committed by parents and other close family members against children has included physical, sexual and psychological abuse, as well as failure to meet the basic life needs of the child. Depending on the age and developmental level of the victim of violence, the perpetrators can be parents, stepmother or stepfather, foster parents, brothers or sisters and other family members and caregivers.
Violence at home and in the family is most often carried out under the guise of disciplining a child. According to UN data, one of the main causes of mortality and morbidity in children in infancy, early childhood and preschool age is the neglect of parents:
- leaving a child unattended;
- refusal to satisfy his/her physical and psychological needs;
- untimely appeal for medical help, etc.;
- insults, abuse, isolation, rejection, threats, emotional indifference and humiliation are forms of violence that can harm the child’s mental development and well-being, especially if they come from a respected adult such as the parent.
Domestic violence is always a certain system of the behavior of one family member in relation to another (others), with the goal of maintaining power, control and instilling fear, that is, regular aggressive and hostile actions in relation to family members. As a result, the target of violence experiences humiliation, harm or injury, and sometimes the sad outcome is his/her death.
Another definition of domestic violence: deliberate actions of a physical, psychological, sexual orientation of one family member in relation to another, violating his/her rights, freedoms, legitimate interests and causing him/her physical and (or) psychological suffering.
A victim of domestic violence is a person who has suffered physical and (or) psychological suffering as a result of violence committed against him/her, regardless of whether he/she is recognized as a victim in accordance with the procedure established by law or considers him-/herself so.
The most vulnerable family members (woman, child, elderly family members, disabled people) are most often victims of violence. In 70% of cases, victims of domestic violence are women and children. Most often, there is a combination of several types of violence at the same time.
One of the most important features of domestic violence is that it is repeated over time cases of multiple types of violence (physical, sexual, psychological and economic). It is important to note here the difference between a family conflict and an episode of violence: if the conflict is local, isolated, then the violence is systemic and consists of successive incidents. Conflict is usually based on some specific problem that can be resolved. Domestic violence, on the other hand, is used to gain full power and control over the victim.
The abuser may list different reasons for the violent act, but all of them are not among the real reasons for the violence. The main force driving the abuser is the desire to establish absolute power over the child or other family member. In a “chronic” situation of domestic violence, one person controls or attempts to control the behavior and feelings of another who may be harmed, harmed, or injured. In a situation of violence, not only the victim suffers. Everyone suffers from family terror.
Five main forms of action make up the nature of domestic violence:
- physical violence;
- sexual abuse;
- psychological abuse;
- economic violence;
- failure to meet the basic life needs of the child.
Domestic violence is not limited to the location of the episode. An incident can happen in the home where the family lives, outside the home, when the abuser and his/her victim (for example, one of the parents and children) are on vacation, on the street, in other places.
Typically, domestic violence is characterized by the following features:
- if violence has already taken place, then usually over time the frequency of its repetition and the degree of cruelty increase;
- violence and abusive behavior alternates with promises to change and apologies made by the abuser;
a combination of different types of violence is often observed.
A typical model of domestic violence is the use of force against a weaker one. Strength can be physical or determined by status. Both of these types of superiority occur in cases of domestic violence. Many difficulties arise when analyzing domestic violence. Domestic violence is often hidden. This is explained, on the one hand, by the reluctance of the victims to contact the law enforcement agencies (some do not trust them or are afraid of changing their usual relations after the intervention of representatives of the official authorities, etc.), and, on the other hand, by the inability of the family members suffering from violence to contact special centers for help (this applies primarily to children and the elderly).
Such types of violence as psychological and sexual are characterized by a special latency.
Thus, domestic violence is a real action or threat of physical, psychological, sexual or economic violence from one person to another, and sometimes several family members in relation to a specific family member, and also the failure to meet the basic life needs of the child.
When is a child in a situation of domestic violence?
Children living in families where one of the parents or caregivers abused, commonly referred to as “children who witness domestic violence”. The term “child in a situation of domestic violence” brings a lot of clarity, as it covers many forms of violence that children have to endure. While parents often feel confident that they are protecting children from seeing domestic violence, children living with them say the opposite.
Researchers have found that 80-90% of children in families with domestic violence can tell about it in detail. Increasingly, research is being conducted on the impact of domestic violence on children, the problems associated with witnessing violence, and the protective factors that influence their response to violence.
Typically, the impact of domestic violence on a child falls into four main categories:
- a child understands that there is violence;
- a child is directly involved in such events as a witness;
- a child intervenes in the situation or is used in the process of violent actions (for example, becomes a “human shield” against the perpetrator of violence);
- a child is experiencing the consequences of an act of violence.
Involving children in domestic violence situations may also involve using them as “spies” to obtain information from the adult victim; children can be forced to view or participate in the abuse of the victim, and the perpetrator can use the child as a condition to force the victim not to end a violent relationship.
Some children are physically injured as a result of domestic violence. Sometimes abusers deliberately commit physical, emotional, or sexual abuse to their children to humiliate and control their partner (a spouse or roommate). Children are often injured by accident while committing violence against an adult victim. The child may be injured by a thrown object or weapon used against the victim. Young children can be assaulted when the victim is holding the child, and older children can be harmed when they intervene in the violence.
In addition to the fact that a child becomes a witness and participant in an act of rude behavior, many children are then intimidated so that they do not talk about the episode of violence, do not reveal the “family secret.” The impact of domestic violence on children. Children living in an environment of domestic violence face multiple risks, for example, the risk of injury, the risk of being left without means of life support, the risk of violence, the risk of losing one or both parents. All of this can have negative consequences for children.
Case studies consistently confirm that children have three categories of problems associated with witnessing or participating in domestic violence situations:
- behavioral, social and emotional problems – higher levels of aggression, anger, hostility, defiant behavior and disobedience;
- poor relationships with peers, brothers and sisters, inability to build social relationships; low self-esteem;
- cognitive and relationship problems – poor cognitive functionality, poor school performance, lack of conflict resolution and problem-solving skills, acceptance of rude behavior and attitudes, belief in unshakable gender stereotypes and male dominance;
- problems arising in the long term – high levels of depression and trauma symptoms in adulthood, increased tolerance to violence in relationships and to its use.
Children also show specific problems related to their physical, physiological and social development. School-aged children may have problems in relationships with peers and in school, difficulties with maintaining emotional stability. According to adults who often witnessed domestic violence as children, many of them suffer from symptoms associated with trauma, depression, and low self-esteem.
Possible symptoms and behavioral patterns in children who have experienced domestic violence:
- insomnia, fear of falling asleep, nightmares, dreams of danger;
- physical symptoms (headaches or abdominal pain);
- hypervigilance in relation to danger or injury;
- fighting, beating other children or animals;
- mood swings or defiant behavior;
- isolation or detachment from ordinary activities;
- apathy, depression, loss of energy;
- feeling of loneliness and isolation;
- alcohol and drug abuse (now or in the future);
- attempted suicide or dangerous behavior;
- poor school performance;
- difficulties with concentration and attention;
- fear of separation from a non-violent parent;
- feeling that all efforts are insufficient;
- taking on the responsibilities of an adult or a parent;
- excessive anxiety;
- enuresis, developmental delay;
- dissociation (perception of oneself as if “from the outside”);
- identification with the perpetrator of violence or repetition of his/her behavior.
Where to go for help in a situation of violence?
If necessary, you can apply for help to the relevant state bodies and organizations, as well as to specialists of public associations. Today, a fairly large-scale system has been created to protect the rights and freedoms of the child, including from violence and cruel treatment. This activity is carried out by different bodies and institutions: commissions on minors’ affairs, education, guardianship and guardianship, social protection, health care, internal affairs bodies. Educational institutions provide psychological, pedagogical and socio-pedagogical assistance to children who have suffered in the family from abuse and neglect of basic life needs.
Cathi Rendfrey, director of the Women’s Opportunity Center at the YMCA of Burlington and Camden Counties, reports: “If your child is attending preschool (nursery or kindergarten), you can contact the psychologist working there who will help parents build relationships with their child. If the child goes to school, it is worth visiting the social and psychological service of the general secondary education institution.”
A social pedagogical center, department of education will help if a child is subjected to violence from teachers or peers. There are such centers in every state. Socio-pedagogical centers provide socio-pedagogical and psychological assistance to children in difficult situations and their parents, conduct family consultations, meetings and classes to restore parent-child relations, work with families where child abuse has taken place, etc.
Commissions on juvenile affairs organize the work of bodies, institutions and other organizations that carry out the prevention of neglect and delinquency of minors, recognize minors in need of state protection; approve and monitor the implementation of interdepartmental plans for the protection of the rights and legitimate interests of minors in need of state protection; apply in the manner prescribed by law to the court with statements in defense of the rights and interests of minors protected by law, in defense of other interests of minors; take part in the consideration by the relevant bodies, institutions and organizations that carry out the prevention of neglect and delinquency of minors, materials on delinquency or other antisocial actions of minors, their parents or persons replacing them; visit minors at the place of residence, work or study, conduct conversations with minors, their parents or persons replacing them; conduct reception of minors, their parents or persons replacing them, and other citizens.
The guardianship and trusteeship authorities protect the rights and legitimate interests of children, exercise control over the conditions of detention, upbringing and education of children in appropriate institutions, family-type children’s homes, foster families.
The majority of centers of social services have highly qualified psychologists, social work specialists who help to sort out a difficult situation, provide emergency psychological assistance, and consult on basic social and legal issues.
In addition, there are crisis rooms and offices where victims of violence can get temporary shelter.
Health care facilities provide primary care and treatment, identify the nature of injuries and record where, how and under what circumstances victims of violence were injured.
Also, many public organizations in the United States can provide psychological, social, and sometimes legal assistance in situations of domestic violence.