Children caught in abuse crossfire

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 19, 2009

Battered women are not the only ones who suffer devastating and permanent injury as a result of abuse. Children living in homes in which there is violence between adults are two to three times more likely to be abused than other children.

Children are often injured in the crossfire of the violence, when furniture and other large objects are thrown or overturned.

Young children are especially at risk and sustain the most serious injuries, including broken bones and concussions.

Email newsletter signup

Older children often try to intervene, and one study found that 62 percent of sons over 14 who tried to intervene were hurt trying to protect their mothers.

Girls frequently try to shield younger siblings from the violence, and may delay leaving home for college or work.

Also, battered mothers are more likely to use harsh or abusive punishment than mothers who have no been abused.

Children who aren’t physically injured still suffer severe trauma from growing up in a violent home. Each year, millions of children witness their mothers being emotionally abused, physically abused or even sexually assaulted by their fathers or other men in the home. Even parents who try to shelter their children from the violence are seldom successful.

Children hear screams, see injuries, live in an atmosphere of terror and tension. And they learned that this is what home life is like — that humiliation, disrespect and beatings are normal in a home, that violence is the appropriate way to solve a problem.

The damage to these children is appalling. A mother who must focus on her own survival or grapple with the depression and other problems that accompany battering is unlikely to be available to her children for their emotional support.

Children in violent homes live in a constant state of uncertainty and instability.

Psychologists and social scientists who have worked with children who witness battering have found that a high number suffer from guilt, anger, depression, anxiety, shyness, nightmares, aggression, disruptiveness, irritability and problems getting along with others.

At Southwest Mississippi Mental Health Complex’s Alcohol and Drug Office, we have solutions for problems with substance abuse and anger.

Carolene Britt is a counselor at Southwest Mississippi Mental Health Complex’s Alcohol and Drug Office. She can be reached at 601-446-6634 or at 200 S. Wall St., Natchez.