Domestic and intimate partner violence are Adverse Childhood Experiences that weaken a family’s chance for emotional, psychological, and physical stability and safety. According to the landmark CDC/Kaiser Permenente study on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), witnessing violence in the home can cause lifelong trauma for children.
When children are involved, the family unit is often used as a weapon by the abuser. The common guilt-inducing questions mothers are asked include: “Do you want to take your children away from their parent? Do you want your children to grow up without a family? How will you take care of your children without me?”
The idea that you must stay with your partner regardless of the toxicity of the relationship to uphold the family unit ignores the fact that children exposed to these traumas from the time that they are born to the age of 18 are more likely to have mental and physical problems later in life. Children witnessing the harm of their parent or experiencing the violence themselves are also left with post-traumatic stress.
Consequences of witnessing intimate partner violence
The CDC states that experiencing ACEs like domestic violence and intimate partner violence can cause children to develop toxic stress that could change brain development, decision-making, learning, and emotional responses. These children are at a higher risk of depression, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and suicide. Socially, they have difficulty forming healthy and stable relationships, struggle with finances and jobs, and may pass along their trauma to their own future children.
How to prevent intimate partner violence
Domestic violence and intimate partner violence can be preventable, or if it’s already occurring, help is available. Here are some suggestions:
- Create a safety plan.
- Develop a supportive network of family, friends, and allies.
- Seek out therapy and connect with survivors.
- Find local shelters and safe places to stay.
- Maintain separate finances.
If you are the abused partner, remember that you have power to leave, options, and resources to help you escape. Your abuser does not define you and your strength.
If you are the adult survivor, remember, none of this was your fault. You are unique in this world and deserve a safe and happy life. There are many resources available to help you, especially counseling. Here is a blog on how to choose a good therapist.
Resources for Help
National Domestic Violence Hotline (800) 799-7233
Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline (800) 422-4453
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline (800) 662-4357
Crisis Text Line Text HOME to 741741
You can help make sure this never happens to another child. Learn how by subscribing to our newsletter and supporting our work. Read about the ten categories of ACEs by following our blog. Do you know your ACE score? Take the ACE test here.