Through no fault of their own

Domestic violence also affects children
By Laura Daniali | Feb 25, 2015

The following article is the fourth in an eight-part series produced by The Beacon on domestic violence. Called the Domestic Violence Awareness Project, the series aims to educate our readers while offering information – and hope – to those needing help.

Key & Peele, a popular Comedy Central duo, have taken a comedic approach to social commentary – though for adults only – on how domestic violence in children’s homes affect their lives outside the home in the YouTube video “School Bully.”

It has over 11 million views, and uses adults to act out the dynamics between a bully and his victim.

The bully taunts the victim for reading and his sexual orientation, while the viewer gets a peek into the bully’s subconscious thoughts and the reasons behind his jabs.

It takes place outside of a school, and when the bully’s father pulls up, he yells at the kid to get in the car.

His thoughts play out like this – “I need to take you home and beat on you, because I hate myself, and you look like your mother who left me, and I’m going to block out the guilt I feel over mistreating you with a river of vodka.”

And his son’s thoughts follow – “I’m going to internalize that and unknowingly transfer it on to you tomorrow” he says to his victim.

The harsh, yet comedic, video intentionally links domestic violence and bullying.

And it’s not unfounded. According to nobullying.com, a 2011 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found a positive statistical link between bullying and exposure to violence in the home, either as a victim or witness.

“Kids who witness, or who are victimized by domestic violence, can turn to bullying at school, as it is what they are having modeled for them at home,” said Jill Schick, domestic violence coordinator for the cities of Mill Creek and Edmonds.

“Often children will act out with their bodies, or physical reactions, what they are not able to process or deal with emotionally and mentally.

“Statistically speaking, children who witness domestic violence in their home are more likely to commit future crimes, more likely to run away from home, and more likely to commit suicide.”

Carole Schettler, a children’s advocate for Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County (DVS), said the impact of domestic violence on children and teens is huge.

“The result is – they learn to become a victim or an abuser,” Schettler said. “Domestic violence is a learned behavior.”

She said children often think it’s only happening in their family.

“Children don’t think it is wrong because it is familiar,” she said. “It may be the abuse is all they know.

“They have not labeled it as ‘abuse.’”

Schick said many times, kids are put in the position of having to take sides between parents or feel that they need to protect their parents in some way.

Both Schick and Schettler agree that children and teens should reach out to trusted adults for help.

Schick suggests they talk to a trusted adult at school, church or extracurricular activity. She said contacting the police directly is always an option for kids.

“If a child feels they are in danger,” Schick said, “they should talk with a trusted adult if possible, or go to the police.

“If they are in their home, and feel they are in imminent danger, some things to keep in mind are to avoid rooms with only one exit and avoid the kitchen where there are knives and other readily available weapons.

“Call 911.”

Schettler suggested a child should try to find a safe place away from the abusive person by going to a neighbor’s house or calling a family member, aunt, uncle, grandmother or grandfather, and call 911.

She said a child should never try to stop the abuser, and mothers should use a code word so a child will know when to go for help.

Many times, children and teens arrive at the DVS temporary emergency shelter in Everett with their mothers.

The 52-bed confidential shelter provides a 30-day stay for victims where they have access to food and clothing, counseling and support groups for both adults and children, violence education and legal advocacy.

Schettler said sometimes the children just play during the support groups, but other times will talk about emotions and read books like “Hands Are Not for Hitting” and “Words Are Not for Hurting.”

Every day, she reminds the children that hitting is not OK, and play fighting and watching violent videos is not OK.

“Thirty days at a shelter,” she said, “is just the beginning of relearning good behaviors.”

The shelter also has a Youth Center for kids and teens, and Schettler said it is the most amazing place for the children.

They can play air hockey, foosball, watch a movie, do arts and crafts, play Xbox, eat a snack, read a book or take a nap on a bean bag.

There’s also a basketball court – loved by both young and old – and the center offers two-week art camps every summer.

Schettler said she has 31 kids at the shelter this month, and she has seen many children come and go with their mothers.

Many of the children have touched her heart, and she remembers a teenage girl who arrived with her mother and would not speak.

“I sat with her for days,” Schettler said, “as she showed me how to fold paper (origami).

“The finished product was a beautiful, multifaceted star. It is still displayed in our teen room.”

She has seen a little boy come in covered in dirt from living in a tent city with his mom.

He was brown from the dirt, she said, and had not bathed for a long time.

“It took many scrubbings to remove the dirt,” Schettler said, “which appeared on his neck as blotches of brown.”

She got him a new pair of boots with a shoe store voucher, and he wore them 24/7 while at the shelter.

“I want the world to know these children and teens come to us through no fault of their own,” Schettler said. “They are precious lives. I do believe I have made a difference in their lives.

“It may be a smile, a pair of shoes, learning how to fold papers for origami or a listening ear. I am grateful that they passed through my life.”

If you or someone you know needs help, call the 24-hour DVS hotline at 425-252-2873. Collect calls are accepted. Other resources include Compass Health at 425-258-4357 and the YWCA at 425-774-9843.

Effects of domestic abuse on children:

Emotional

• Feel guilty for the abuse and not stopping it

• Confusion about conflicting feelings toward parents

• Fear of abandonment, expressing emotions

• Angry about violence, chaos in their life

• Depressed, feelings of hopelessness

• Embarrassment by effects of abuse, home life

Cognitive

• Blames others for own behavior

• Believes it’s acceptable to hit others to express anger,

feel powerful, get needs met

• Low self-concept

• Do not ask for what they need, want

• Do not trust

• Rigid stereotypes of what it means to be a boy, be a girl,

be a man, be a woman, etc.

Behavioral

(often seen in opposite extremes)

• Act out vs. withdraw

• Overachiever vs. underachiever

• Refusal to go to school

• Caretaking, more concerned for others; parent substitute

• Rigid defenses (“black-and-white” thinking)

• Excessive attention seeking

• Bedwetting, nightmares

• Out of control behavior: cannot set limits, follow directions

Social

• Isolation from friends and relatives

• Relationships that start intensely, end abruptly

• Difficulty trusting, especially adults

• Poor anger management, problem solving

• Excessive social involvement

• May be passive with peers, bullies

• Engage in exploitative relationships

• Plays roughly with peers

Physical

• Somatic complaints – headaches, stomachaches

• Nervous, anxious and short attention span

• Tired, lethargic

• Frequently ill

• Poor personal hygiene

• Regression in developmental tasks depending on age

(bedwetting, thumbsucking)

• Desensitization to pain

• High risk play, acitivities

• Self abuse

Source: Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County

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