Friday, 27 April 2012

What Witnessing Domestic Violence Does To A Child

By Vani, Intern – Bell Bajao
When children see some female member being physically abused, it almost invariably has a very strong effect on them. There is of course, the impact of seeing violence at close quarters, being inflicted on someone they love (perhaps a mother or a sister). This could result in a whole lot of nasty side effects such as paranoia and general wariness, guilt and self blame, and a feeling of being trapped. Chances are that the child’s attitude will also seriously suffer, towards women in general, and the victim in particular. The child may believe that it is the victim’s fault if she is abused, and that it is perfectly permissible to physically abuse women as their father or some other male relative is doing it without any apparent guilt or fear of being caught.

Since violence against women is so prevalent in our country, children belonging to families in nearly all economic groups are liable to witness it either in their own homes or in the homes of friends and relatives. And since women don’t stand up for themselves, whether out of fear for the consequences or because they feel they deserve what they get, or even because they’re embarrassed, children (particularly younger ones) begin to feel that there is nothing wrong with what they see. And when (and if) education catches up with them, they find it difficult to shake the attitude ingrained in them at an impressionable age. And others feel that if the previous generation could get away with it, why can’ they.

In a lot of cases of domestic violence, children aren’t just passive witnesses. They are forced to become active participants too. In some cases it might be suggested that their bad behaviour serves as an excuse to abuse their mother. In some cases, children might even be encouraged to join in the abuse. During certain incidents children may even try to protect the person being abused, which could result in their punishment by the abuser.

Even if domestic abuse takes place behind closed doors and the child is not witness to any physical act, it can have a huge impact on the child’s life. If the mother decides to go in for a divorce, prolonged custody battles, parents fighting over who gets to keep the child (or worse, who doesn’t want the child) can lead to emotional stress and trauma. Even if the mother puts up with the abuse and stays married, chances are the home atmosphere becomes one of fear, worry, guilt and even anger.

At the end of the day, one thing seems glaringly clear, while there is domestic violence going on at home, it will have a significant effect on the psychological make-up of the child and may even alter the child’s character in the developmental stage. The obvious, but under-implemented solution to this problem is; end domestic violence at once. Women should be told to stand up for themselves and to have enough faith in themselves to walk out of an abusive relationship. And above all, the mindset that encourages domestic violence and the vicious cycle that leads to its propagation must be phased out. Children learn by example, and while they witness physical violence at home and observe the victim’s acceptance of it, they will continue to believe that domestic violence is perfectly justified, and we will get a new generation of aggressive abusers and submissive victims.

1 comment:

  1. Walking out is easier said than done especially if women are not economically independent. There are so many intricacies involved at different levels - social, cultural, familial. The best solution is to educate and make all women independent so they feel strong enough to walk out on all forms of violence!