Domestic violence takes many forms. It can be chronic arguing and yelling, intimidation, threats of murder or suicide, controlling behaviours, or serious injuries and a pattern of behaviours in intimate relationships that are marked by coercive control can be a red flag of abuse.
United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) defines domestic violence as a pattern of assaultive and coercive behaviours including physical, sexual and psychological attacks, as well as economic coercion used against current or former intimate partners.
The international agency responsible for providing humanitarian and developmental aid to children also lists examples of physical abuse as slapping, shaking, beating with fist or object, strangulation, burning, kicking and threats with a knife. Sexual abuse includes coerced sex through threats or intimidation or through physical force, forcing unwanted sexual acts, forcing sex in front of others and forcing sex with others. Psychological abuse involves isolation from others, excessive jealousy, control of his or her activities, verbal aggression, intimidation through destruction of property, harassment or stalking, threats of violence and constant belittling and humiliation
A report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals that homes where violence between partners occurs, there is a 45 to 60% chance of a co-occurring child abuse and even children who don’t get physically attacked still end up witnessing 68 to 80% of domestic attacks.
Domestic violence, more often than not, leave caregivers unavailable and unresponsive – emotionally or otherwise. This activates in the kids a primal fear accompanied by a host of other raw unresolved motions.
According to UNICEF, children who live with and are aware of violence in the home face a number of challenges and risks that can last throughout their lives including:
Increased risk of children becoming victims of abuse themselves
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As earlier mentioned, there is a common link between domestic violence and child abuse with studies around the world finding that children who are exposed to violence in the home are more likely than their peers to be physically and/or sexually assaulted.
Ever-increasing harm to child’s physical, emotional and social development
UNICEF says that infants and small children exposed to domestic violence experience added emotional stress that can harm the development of their brains and impair their cognitive and sensory growth.
A child’s brain becomes hard-wired for later physical and emotional functioning and exposure to domestic violence threatens this development.
Some studies suggest that domestic violence damages a child’s social development as some children lose the ability to feel empathy for others, some feel socially isolated and struggle to make friends due to social discomfort or get confused over what is acceptable.
Strong likelihood that the violence will be a continuing cycle
The social welfare organization also points that children becoming perpetrators or victims of domestic violence later in life has a lot to do with whether or not they grew up in homes where there was domestic violence. Studies from across the world support that abuse is higher among women whose husbands were abused as children or saw their mothers being abused.