The tragic reality is that anytime a mother is abused by her partner, the children are also affected in both overt and subtle ways. What hurts the mother, hurts the children.
When a mother is abused, the children may feel guilty that they cannot protect her, or that they are the cause of the strife. They may themselves be abused, or neglected while the mother attempts to deal with the trauma. The rate of child abuse is 6-15 times higher in families where the mother is abused.
Children get hurt when they see their parents being yelled at, pushed, or hit. They may feel confusion, stress, fear, shame, or think that they caused the problem. Children grow up learning that it’s okay to hurt other people or let other people hurt them. A third of all children who see their mothers beaten develop emotional problems. Boys who see their fathers beat their mothers are ten times more likely to be abusive in their adult intimate relationships.
Children may exhibit emotional problems, cry excessively, or be withdrawn or shy. Children may have difficulty making friends or have fear of adults. Children may suffer from depression and excessive absences from school. Children may use violence for solving problems at school and home. Children may be at greater risk of being a runaway, being suicidal, or committing criminal acts as juveniles and adults. Children who are experiencing stress may show it indifferent ways, including difficulty in sleeping, bedwetting, over-achieving, behavior problems, withdrawing, stomach aches, headaches and/or diarrhea.
Children who grow up in violent homes have much higher risks of becoming drug or alcohol abusers or being involved in abusive relationships, as a batterer or a victim. Children do not have to be abused themselves in order to be impacted by violence in the home.
The only answer to this problem is to treat domestic violence for what it is – a crime. We must fight the societal values that reinforce the stereotypes that encourage men to act aggressively and use violence to solve problems; that women are weak and submissive and should accept male dominance as the norm. Children must be taught at an early age non-violent conflict resolution.