Every child deserves a safe heaven, i.e., their home. A secure place so that when they face struggles in the outside world, they have a home that provides comfort and support. Unfortunately, many children are deprived of this safe heaven by being exposed to domestic violence, which severely impacts their lives.
Domestic violence is a global problem. Men are sometimes the victims, but the vast majority are women. Every one in three women globally has been abused emotionally or physically. Domestic violence can take place anywhere, but certain aspects seem to increase its likelihood. These include the mother’s age (the younger the mother, the more likely she will be a victim), unemployment, abusive marriages, male dominance, poverty, alcohol, and substance, etc. Studies have shown that women were be assaulted by their partners than those who lived with non-drinkers.
The haunting effects of domestic violence on women are mostly documented, but its impact on the children is far less known. The children who are raised in violent homes are much more likely to be victims of the abuse and suffer serious long- and short-term effects.
The difference between modern countries and developing countries like Pakistan is that the effects of domestic violence on children is spoken about in the developed countries, but in Pakistan, it is considered a private matter. It is not confronted and hence remains invisible.
Children are the most vulnerable in their earliest years of life. Studies have shown that domestic violence is more widespread in homes with younger children. Those children exposed to emotional, physical, or sexual abuse may face difficulties in learning and have limited social skills, violent behavior, insomnia, emotional distress, depression or severe anxiety, and health problems like heart disease, obesity, poor self-esteem, and other problems. In addition to the abuse itself, other reasons like the nature of the violence, age of the child, elapsed time since exposure, child’s gender influences the impact of the violence. Children who observe lesser incidents of violence and experience positive interactions between caregivers may be less harmfully impacted than those exposed to recurrent violence. Boys usually tend to display more externalizing behavior such as acting out and aggression, whereas girls tend to show more internalizing behavior like depression and social withdrawal. The psychological aftermath that children face after the exposure to domestic violence may include fear of abandonment or harm, extreme worry or sadness, unable to empathize, guilt, lying, low tolerance, shame, emotional distancing, poor judgment and fear about the future.
Children who are raised with violence in their home learn about the use of violence in relationships to dominate others. There is a strong probability that it will become a cycle that continues for the next generation. Therefore, more attention should be given to this matter so that it can be solved.
What do children need?
• They need safe and secure heaven called home.
• They need to know that there are adults who are willing to listen to them, and the violence can end.
• They need support services and shelters.
• They need adults to speak up and address this issue.
• They need to learn non-violent ways of solving problems.
Steps that policymakers and government should take
Criminalizing domestic violence is a self-explanatory message that violence is unacceptable and is not a private matter. This would encourage many people who go through domestic violence to speak against it and take action. Awareness should be raised on the impact of domestic violence on children. Policies should be put in place by the government to eradicate violence and encourage more people to speak about it. As long as the violence in the home is shrouded in silence, the violence will continue. The government should specifically allot resources to support children who are victims of the violence in their homes within the inclusive context of support and prevention for adult victims of domestic violence. Innovative programs should exist to address the children’s needs, like through training the staff who work with children to sense early warning signs and offer suitable responses and support. Children should be made aware of domestic violence at school so that they can develop positive morals to avoid violent behavior.
Providing support to adult victims of domestic violence can also benefit the children, especially when children’s specific needs are well-thought-out. Support for locating safe housing, income aid, health care, and referrals for psychosocial support services must be considered as means to assist all victims of domestic violence.
Awareness campaigns on domestic violence should emphasize more on the impact on children and find ways to report this significant hidden problem. Governments and other public institutions must speak about the effects of domestic violence on children.
There should be no place for violence in a child’s life, and we must make every effort to provide children with a safe and secure home so that they can have peaceful and bright futures.