Geeta Sahai, a Housewife, suffered from domestic violence in silence for years due to the lack of financial support. But it was when her four-year-old son became a victim of it while trying to stop a fight, she finally realised that it was time to walk out of it all.
Geeta is just one among the many who has undergone this trauma. Complaints of domestic violence with the National Commission of Women have shot up to around 2300 from January and May 2021, the highest since 2000. There are still many cases of women and men that have simply gone unreported.
Domestic violence plagues society as a whole. It emotionally, physically and mentally cripples the victim as well as the offsprings who remain scarred for life. Here is what you need to know…
What you need to know about domestic violence
As per the book, ‘Domestic Violence and Health Care in India: Policy and Practice’ by Meerambika Mahapatro, “Domestic violence has been defined as encompassing any behaviour within an intimate relationship that causes physical, psychological or sexual harm to those in the relationship.” Being a form of abuse, it damages the whole being of the victim and can lead to lifelong mental and physical issues. Along with the victim, this repeated act brings havoc to the kids and other family members as well. If you are a victim of domestic abuse or know anyone who is, it is important that you seek help.
How domestic violence affects kids
Domestic violence can impact the child on several levels:
Mental and emotional scars:
Witnessing or sensing violent behaviour can lead to deep mental and emotional scars that might be carried on throughout life. The children could be in a constant state of fear, depression, anxiety and suffer from post-traumatic stress. Bursts of anger and feelings of guilt can lead to an abusive outburst. They might be in a state of worry as to when the next attack would come. All of this hinders the emotional and mental wellbeing of the child.
Many times, the trauma of being around a violent environment can reflect in physical symptoms due to the strong body and mind connection. Insomnia, nightmares, unhealthy food habits, stomach problems are just some of them. Prolonged stress can create major health issues as well.
The first relationship that kids grow up observing is that of their parents. When there is a problem in the root itself, this creates issues with all social relationships, be it, family or peers. They grow up to have a lack of trust and a sense of anger towards those around them. Some can become aloof, turn to bullying, be the victim or perpetrator of domestic violence themselves.
As per age
Depending upon their age, the reaction and consequences of a child from a domestic violent home might differ:
Domestic violence is likely to affect children as early as when in the womb. Physical attacks combined with the mental and emotional trauma of the mother can lead to low weight of the baby and premature birth. Sometimes, the negative emotions get passed on to the child as well.
Infants have a high risk of injury as their brain has not developed completely. They can sense the unhealthy atmosphere and be found crying uncontrollably, being unresponsive as well as having diarrhoea and developmental issues.
Preschool children might undergo regression and showcase symptoms of bed-wetting, thumb-sucking as well as display signs of terror and separation anxiety.
- School children
At this age, children are more aware of something being amiss and are likely to blame themselves. It can bring in an alteration to their personality formation, making them more aloof and inactive.
The angst of this age along with a disturbing atmosphere at home can lead to disastrous consequences. They might lash out and resort to disruptive patterns such as drug and alcohol abuse as well as unprotected sex. There are chances of a run-in with the law and social abnormalities.
What can be done about it:
The impact of domestic violence if left untreated can create lifelong problems just like a disease. It is important to tend to this situation:
Providing a nurturing atmosphere
Often children are left feeling scared and vulnerable. It is your responsibility as a parent or caretaker to ensure that your child is removed from that atmosphere and placed comforted in a safe zone. One can consider leaving the relationship and staying in a place that they feel nurtured.
Making them understand it is not their fault
Children of abusive relationships tend to blame them for all that is going wrong. Make them understand that it is neither their fault nor the victim. Hear your child out on what they are going through.
Nurture a healthy relationship
Issues of distrust are common with children of a domestic violent family. Now more than ever, nurturing a healthy relationship with your child takes precedence.
Make them understand boundaries
Being in an atmosphere of domestic abuse can blur the lines of right and wrong as well as boundaries in a child’s mind. It is important to set clear understandings of boundaries and the ramification of delinquent behavioural patterns.
Seek professional help
For matters that are so sensitive, it is best to seek professional help. The counsellor would come from a place of experience. A support system and helpline access can be provided as well. Thanks to digital access, you can also talk to a therapist online for better guidance and recovery.
Domestic violence can clip the wings of the victim as well as his/her kids. It can derail their growth and come in the way of emotional and mental well-being. If you or your loved one is suffering, do seek therapy and counselling.
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