Children may not be direct targets of abuse, however they can suffer the effects of it just the same. Parents may not realize their verbal vitriol is like a slap on the face to kids.
In one case a boy was being seen by special services in school because he could not hold it together. When something happened at school it was enough to tip him over the edge, triggering tears or an outburst.
Turned out that his parents were yelling at each other most evenings and this lad would retreat to his room to read.
When asked, he revealed that his older brother put on head phones and played video games. The parent’s verbal abuse to each other impacted their sons’ stress levels and schooling.
Trauma through physical or sexual abuse may be a onetime event like rape, or prolonged repeated acts. Children may be threatened or coerced into cooperating with the abuser. The abuse is overwhelming and violates the child’s sense of security.
Ongoing abuse can develop into Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Children can have flashbacks, nightmares and are hypersensitive to triggers which remind them of the initial abuse.
Effects of Domestic Violence
Caleb was molested from age seven to eleven and had suppressed these memories until a year after his parents’ divorce.
His therapist had to intervene to stop visitations until they could be supervised or terminated. An authoritarian teacher reminded Caleb of his father and he became belligerent. Caleb had to improve his low marks and classroom behavior. Therapy has greatly helped Caleb to learn strategies in dealing with his PTSD and its triggers.
Caleb developed asthma around age seven at the onset of sexual abuse and this is a red flag for sexual or physical abuse.
Young children who cannot talk or older ones who are afraid, can manifest their stress physically as in bed-wetting or developing asthma.
Dr. Robyn T. Cohen and other researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and from Harvard stated “Our findings highlight the importance of screening for asthma among victims of childhood abuse and to be aware of the possibility of physical or sexual abuse among children with asthma.”
In some cases a child may repeat the abuse that was done to her.
A single mother adopted a girl at age four and things went well. They bonded and developed a great relationship. Then the mother wanted to adopt two more children so she began the process by fostering. These two kids had pinch marks and scratches and an investigation commenced.
The adopted girl said the foster children were doing it to themselves but it was eventually determined that the daughter was hurting the other two children because she had been physically abused in her birth home. She did not want anyone else encroaching on her territory so lashed out in a physical manner.
The adoption of the other kids was denied. The original adopted daughter was left in the home and life went back to the way it was. As long as no other children were in the picture, things were okay.
Sometimes people mistakenly stay in a marriage “for the sake of the children.” Think carefully about this as kids pick up more than is expected and can repeat toxic patterns in their lives. The effects of abuse can last the child’s entire life.