Addressing the Parents
Approaching the mother (or both parents) with suspicions that violence is going on in the home is risky. Many times the mother is denying to herself that she is the victim of abuse. She may also be ashamed, guilt-ridden, confused, afraid, or just cannot deal with the reality of her situation.
If you wish to get involved with her, try starting by expressing concern about her child's behavior. Be specific. Describe actual events where inappropriate behavior has been observed. If the child is enrolled in a school, reference the child's schoolwork, grades, and interaction with peers to indicate that something is wrong. After presenting your concerns, ask the mother to help determine what may be the source of these problems. Describe actions and feelings associated with domestic violence. Also ask about how she and her husband or partner discipline the child.
If met with immediate resistance from the mother, seek help from the CASA coordinator and a domestic violence agency. Report to them the specifics on the case and they can advise on how to deal with the child.
If the mother actually opens up, proceed cautiously. Listen to what she has to say. If you feel you are not capable of dealing with her problems, empathize with her but let her know that domestic violence agencies are much better prepared than you to help her. Often victims of domestic violence are very sensitive to rejection. How you encourage her to seek help makes a great difference as to whether she will or not.
Effects on Children
Children living in violent homes often grow up exhibiting the same behavior as their parents. This is especially true for boys.
- Eighty percent of batterers either were abused or witnessed abuse in their homes as children.
- Boys often become hostile toward the women they are closest to--their mothers, sisters, and wives. They may also abuse their children.
- Girls may take on the role of victim or be abusive themselves.
No matter what their age, children in violent homes receive the message that violence is an effective means to get control over other people. The following are some statistics from a study of teenagers who have grown up in domestically violent homes.
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- 90% of the teens were sexually active. Their steady partners were described as runaways, prostitutes, alcohol or drug abusers, or school drop-outs.
- 60% of the boys frequently were in trouble with school authorities. Problems included rowdiness, open hostility to teachers and peers, and chronic truancy.
- 85% of the teens said that they have been drinking alcohol since they were eleven; two percent started as early as nine years of age.
- 10% of the teens still had problems with bed-wetting and chronic insomnia.
- Evidence from the study group also indicates that the teens are becoming the next generation of wife-beaters and battered women.
- 83% of the boys who were dating revealed that they hit their girlfriends when angered. They also minimized the behavior by calling it nothing serious.
- 52% of the girls had boyfriends with whom they argued, with the argument escalating into pushing and shoving, screaming at each other, and using profanities.