|by Joan M. Reid
Family violence has reached a new level of consciousness among Americans. Violence occurs in families from all social, racial, economic, educational, and religious backgrounds. It occurs in every state in the country, including Ohio. It happens in large cities and small towns; in neighborhoods and in outlying rural areas. Men, women and children are victims. According to Federal crime statistics, a domestic assault will occur every 15 seconds in the United States.
What is domestic violence? Simply stated, domestic violence is any abusive treatment of one family member by another, which violates the law, or basic human rights. There are different kinds of abuse.
Physical abuse involves hitting, punching, slapping, kicking, shoving, choking, biting, pinching and assault with any object that can cause injury.
Verbal abuse does not leave telltale scars and bruises, but the damage can be even greater. Constant criticism, degrading remarks, name calling, accusations and threats injure people's feelings, erode their self-esteem and can fill them with fear and uncertainty, as well as hatred.
Threats to hit or kill the other person, to leave, or take the children away, or withdraw financial support cause the other partner to live in fear. Emotional abuse such as this is psychologically traumatic.
Most men and women who abuse their partners either watched abuse in their family as they were growing up or were abused themselves as children. They have low self-esteem and usually are controlling and jealous. They often have a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde personality and may easily lose their temper and become verbally or physically violent. They also may have strong traditional views of male and female roles. Abuse of alcohol or other drugs is common.
Family violence can play havoc with a child's mental, emotional and physical development. Watching and listening to abusive parents leaves emotional scars, including:
Children who are abused may fail to thrive physically or may have speech and hearing problems. They often suffer from stress-related illness such as head aches and stomach aches. Children in violent homes may be aggressive or extremely passive. They often experience problems in school. There is a higher rate of juvenile delinquency and substance abuse among these youngsters. Teenagers often escape violent homes into early marriages or pregnancies.
- low self-esteem.
- mixed feelings toward parents.
- lack of trust.
- anxiety in anticipating the next outbreak of violence.
- guilt and depression in feeling responsible for the abuse.
- fear of abandonment.
Violence is a learned behavior. Children who grow up in violent homes learn that violence is an acceptable way to handle conflict. They learn by example that it is all right to hurt someone you love. What children do not learn is equally devastating. They don't learn about healthy relationships, about managing their feelings, or about solving problems in a positive way.
Family violence can be prevented. As a family member, we can recognize a tendency in our family toward violence, realize that violence is not an acceptable way to solve problems, and we can seek help. There are laws and shelters to protect victims of family violence. Help is available. As a member of the community, we can support programs that increase public awareness, teach skills, and help people learn to express feelings in an appropriate manner. We can encourage attempts to reduce violence, and we can support treatment of abusers.
Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet HYG-5288-95
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