Children should be the most critical reason not to stay in an abusive relationship

Dear Editor,

Very often victims of gender based abuse say that they choose not to walk away because of the children.  The fact is that staying in an abusive relationship because of the children will cause the children to be scarred for life as growing up in such a home is one of the most terrifying and traumatic experience a child can go through.

Children in abusive relationships may blame themselves for the abuse, thinking if they had not done or said a particular thing, the abuse would not have occurred. They may also become angry at their siblings or their mothers for triggering the abuse and may display increased aggression towards peers or mothers.

Such children may feel rage, embarrassment, and humiliation. They generally feel isolated and vulnerable and can easily engage in self-harm or even become suicidal. They are starved for attention, affection and approval as they become physically, emotionally and psychologically abandoned. Thus, they can also be continually angry and act out or they can become depressed and withdraw, too frightened and embarrassed to speak out and easy to be bullied. Also they can be anxious to please and thus become easy to manipulate and be taken advantage of.

Since children have a natural tendency to identify with strength, they may ally themselves with the abuser and lose respect for their seemingly helpless mother. In fact, there is a definite correlation between violence and child abuse. Growing up in a violent home can set patterns for children – patterns that can cause them to commit violence and abuse thereby continuing that cycle. In effect, witnessing domestic violence is the single best predictor of juvenile delinquency and adult criminality.

As well females can also become accepting of abuse thinking that it is normal, as they grew up seeing it happen continually, with the victim staying rather than leaving. And so they will not only tolerate intimate-partner abuse as they get older but may actually think such abuse is normal.

Children in abusive relationships may experience developmental delays in speech, motor or cognitive skills. They are also more apt to use poor judgment, have health problems, social and emotional issues, higher risks of alcohol/drug abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder. They are also more apt to become school dropouts, pregnant teens and gun users. They grow up to suffer from low self-esteem, stay in dead end jobs or worse…not being able to keep a job.

According to a 2002 US Department of Justice Special report, children who grow up in homes where violence is present are:

> 6 times more likely to take their lives

> 24 times more likely to be sexually assaulted

> 67 times more likely to engage in delinquent behavior as adolescents

> 100 times more likely to be abusers themselves

> 500 times more likely to be abused or neglected

     In effect children should be the most critical reason not to stay in an abusive relationship.

Yours faithfully,

Annan Boodram

The Caribbean Voice

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