The month of October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This is an issue that is widespread and knows no boundaries based on race, social status, gender, or age. The effects of domestic violence can have a lifelong impact for those individuals involved.
What is Domestic Violence?
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, “domestic violence is the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another. It includes physical violence, sexual violence, psychological violence, and emotional abuse.” This is not only dangerous for the individual that is experiencing this, but also for the children and teens that witness domestic violence.
How Many Children and Adolescents Are Exposed?
According to Parent Insider, each year 3.3 million to 10 million children and adolescents are exposed to domestic violence. Furthermore, these same children and teens are likely to become victims of abuse and even if they have not witnessed the abuse, it can still have a major impact on them.
Impacts on Adolescents Exposed to Domestic Violence
Adolescents are likely to feel at fault and blame themselves for the violence. They may also feel very guilty about not being able to prevent the domestic violence from occurring. As stated by The Whole Child, they may also exhibit these reactions:
- Suicidal thoughts
- Flashbacks of the instances of the domestic violence
- Emotional Numbing
- Self-destructive behavior like abusing substances, eating disorders, or self-mutilation
- Complaints of physical sickness, but no medical basis
- Sleep problems like having difficulty sleeping or nightmares
- Withdrawal and isolation
- Antisocial behavior
- Problems with friends and others
- Problems at school like missing school work or missing school altogether
How to Help Adolescents Exposed to Domestic Violence
If you suspect that an adolescent you know may be impacted by domestic violence, here is how you can help as recommended by The National Child Traumatic Stress Network:
- Safety for the family is the first thing to address.
- For adolescents, assist in planning for safety.
- Help develop strategies for staying safe which also helps the adolescent feel some sense of control.
- Have the adolescent and victim evaluated by a trained health professional to set up proper therapy.
- Additionally, case management through the legal system might be necessary.
The more awareness we bring to domestic violence, we can help cut down on the instances of it and the impact on children and adolescents. However, if you know an adolescent that is impacted by domestic violence, it is good idea to seek out a health professional that specializes in this area so they can get the necessary help they need.