The Overlooked Victims of Domestic Violence
The center of a small child's life is his or her parents. Imagine a child's terror when he helplessly watches his mother or father being physically or verbally attacked. If the abuser is another parent or a trusted adult, you can add horror and confusion to the emotions experienced by the child.
In a 2004 study, calling the abuse of women a "pediatric issue," the American Academy of Pediatrics concluded that witnessing or even overhearing violence in the home can be as traumatic for a child as being the victim of physical or sexual assault.
Some effects of domestic violence on children:
- Children raised in violent homes are more prone to bed-wetting, sleep problems, withdrawal, aggression, failing grades, attempts to please excessively, exaggerated fear, anxiety, depression and other disorders.
- Children often try to "parent" the parent, taking charge of household duties or younger siblings. They may worry about the parent's safety while they are at school or otherwise away from home and thus unable to protect the parent. Their childhood is robbed as they become little adults.
- Children in abusive homes are likely themselves to be injured as they try to intervene to protect a parent or are accidentally hurt in the fray. Furthermore they are more at risk for abuse themselves as studies report 50% of men who frequently assault their wives also abuse their children.
- The residual confusion and anger as well as the tendency to identify with the abuser can pave the way for violent behavior in adulthood. Without intervention, boys who have witnessed domestic violence are more likely to be abusive in adult relationships. Girls can become aggressive themselves as adults or, more commonly, accept their own victimization in abusive relationships, perpetuating violence into the next generation.
CODA's Children's Program
The majority of victims seeking assistance from CODA are parents of young children. CODA is committed to helping those children cope with the trauma they have experienced as well as encouraging them to learn non-violent ways to deal with conflict. CODA's mission is to help children currently in crisis while striving to break the cycle of violence before it is repeated. CODA's program includes:
- Shelter: Every year, CODA offers emergency shelter to approximately the same number of children (up to age 17) as adults.
- Counseling: Counselors work with children both in the shelter and in outreach settings. Children are seen individually and in groups.
- Activities: While in the shelter, children can enjoy the play yard and children's playroom where an activities coordinator facilitates in games, craft projects, homework assistance and reading.
- Parenting Skills: Moms in shelter can take advantage of periodic workshops on parenting and nutrition.
- Schooling: Parents may choose to enroll their children in Beaufort County schools if they are unable to transport their children to their home schools.
- Educational Programs: CODA counselors present bullying prevention programs in local schools as well as "The Megan Project," an interactive dating-violence prevention program.