Children exposed to domestic violence are at risk of being affected negatively later in life, experts say.
In the United States, three to four million children between the ages of 3 and 17 are at risk of exposure to domestic violence each year, authors Alison Cunningham and Linda Baker wrote in their book, “Little Eyes, Little Ears.” Many face the risk of being a victim or abuser later in life, they said.
“(People) should be aware that their child is being exposed to this abuse,” said Doris Urteaga, director of the counseling department at the Domestic Violence Crisis Center in Stamford and Norwalk. “In the future, that child is likely going to become of two things: an abuser or a victim.”
Immediate reactions from children living in these situations include difficulty in completing schoolwork and lower verbal, motor and social skills, Cunningham and Baker wrote. They said children exposed to domestic violence may feel fear, confusion, guilt, anger, frustration, stomachaches and worry.
Along with physical and emotional behavioral changes, in the future, children can repeat history and deal with power issues in their own relationships, Urteaga said.
In the United States, 87 percent of complainants in partner assault cases reported to or investigated by police are female, Cunningham and Baker wrote.
A son may feel that it’s okay to treat his wife the way his father treated his mother, and a daughter may allow herself to be treated the way her mother was, they wrote. They may grow up to think that unequal relationships are normal, they wrote.
“Emotional abuse is the most common type of abuse and also the most difficult to prove in court,’’ Urteaga said. “It is difficult to prove emotional abuse because there is no physical evidence. It is his words against hers.”
Without evidence, it may also be difficult to obtain a restraining order against an abuser.
Later in life, abuse can affect the way a person expresses intimacy with a partner. A former abuser or victim may think that resorting to violence is an acceptable form of relief, Cunningham and Baker wrote.
The Find Law website offers the following advice: “The best way to prevent domestic violence is to be in a healthy, equal relationship and to be a good role model for your children. Speak up for and talk to those people who are you believe are being abused. You should also consider donating to local shelters and encouraging your local block watch to look for signs of domestic violence.”
Jake DeLucia is a student at the Cooperative Arts & Humanities High School, New Haven.