Domestic abuse is classified by several things, including scratching, slapping, spitting, threatening, burning, etc. Due to aggressive domestic violence some children are exposed to at a young age, they are often left with a lifelong impact. These impacts include anxiety, depression, as well as possible violent behavior in their future. My research is focusing on how some children and teens, especially in Africa, are influenced throughout their whole life, just because of these events in their childhood.
What is domestic violence? As explained by the National Domestic Violence Hotline, it is “a pattern of behaviors used by one partner to maintain power and control over another partner in an intimate relationship.” Domestic violence can be physical, mental, or psychological; it also includes intimidation and other methods of threatening such as using weapons, pressure to use drugs/alcohol, prevention of working or getting education, etc. Basically, there are SO many different ways and signs of abuse in a relationship.
Many parents also commit child abuse and it really leaves lifelong scars on children. The main categories of child abuse are neglect, physical abuse, and sexual abuse; more than 5.5 million children are victimized by domestic abuse every single year. Complex trauma refers to the many issues victims of child abuse may face in their future, including anger and suicidal thoughts. Overall, domestic abuse is really an enormous issue worldwide. Over 35% of women all over the world have experienced psychological or physical abuse at some point in their life.
According to the World Atlas, Africa is the most common continent where domestic abuse takes place. More than half of the top 20 countries in the world, known for domestic violence, are in Africa. The 3 places where domestic violence takes place most are DR Congo, Uganda, and Gabon.Over half of Africa’s female population suffers from domestic abuse. Domestic violence is most common in Africa because many women’s opinions are not supported and not taken seriously. For example, in several cases, when South African women complain to their families about an abusive partner, the family blames it on the woman, telling them they probably disrespected their partner in some way (which is usually not the case). Another reason is because several abused women don’t want to leave their husbands because then they will have to face several other issues such as providing for their children by themselves and possibly living in poverty.
Children who witness domestic violence in their homes are at enormous risk for their futures. It affects them, no matter what the age is. There are short term effects which usually just affect the child for a short period of time. The types of effects on minors depends on what age they view domestic violence in their homes. Very young children can start to repeat patterns of stuttering, hiding, wetting the bed, and insomnia. School-aged children often start to think that they’re the reason their parents are fighting. It can affect their self esteem, as well as health, often causing stomach aches and headaches. When teens view domestic violence at home, they are more likely to have less friends and do unnecessary things to get their parents attention such as drugs and unprotected sex.
There is also a number of long term effects that can affect children all through adulthood. These effects include: diabetes, obesity, depression, anxiety, and heart disease. Children and adolescents who grow up with violent behaviour in their households are more likely to repeat the same actions as adults. A study from 2005 (Vargas, Cataldo, Dickson) states, “A girl who grows up in a home where her father abuses her mother is more than six times as likely to be sexually abused as a girl who grows up in a non-abusive home”. Children and teens usually see, hear, and KNOW exactly what’s going on, even if the parents think they have no idea. [8: ] [9: ]
Domestic abuse in Africa has been going on for decades. In colonial Africa, there were several cases of domestic violence in Gumbu and Banamba, with the male abusing the female; children would often run away because they felt abandoned. During those times, as well as the present, verbal abuse and physical abused were sometimes also aimed at the child. Women [10: ] and children have never been respected in a proper way in Africa. The main issue that still persists in Africa is that they are simply treated as property, NOT people.
Children in African countries are exposed to domestic violence at extremely young ages. In Madame President: The Extraordinary Journey of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, it is stated that part of a woman’s role in Monrovia, Liberia in 1985 is “on her back in the dirt as one, two, three, four drunk soldiers rape her in front of her crying children”. Children in this type of situation often try to run away because they can’t handle seeing one of their parents being abused. Conditions in Liberia are better now as former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf issued an order banning domestic violence last year, causing it to happen less often.
Children in families with domestic violence are also heavily affected because they are usually caught up in divorces and custody battles. This can lead to depression because of separation from a certain parent. For example, in 2006, Janet Akinyi in Kenya filed for divorce as well as custody of her children because her husband tried to kill her with a knife and harm her children.
Children in other countries, besides from Africa, are also affected when they see their parents fighting at home. Domestic abuse in Europe is not talked about as much as abuse in other foreign countries, but it still takes place and affects children just as much.“Me and my sister are scared..our parents fight a lot and we fear they might split up. They fight when we’re upstairs. They don’t think we know what’s going on, but we do.”, said a schoolgirl from the United Kingdom.
Of course, children who grow up with domestic violence in their homes are left with terrible memories and constant fear. Though, there are also some lifelong lasting effects that have been recently discovered. Children/teens viewing excessive shouting, threats, and violence can even lose the sense to feel empathy or guilt and be more likely to lie and get frustrated easily. Compared to other children, they are also more likely to try to harm themselves. Children who witness this behavior at home will also probably feel socially isolated (as a result of being lonely) in most of their surroundings.
The effects domestic violence has on families are devastating. And most of the time, it’s only one parent’s fault. Susan R. Murphy was even fired from her job because she was scared her husband would threaten her children, and she did not want them to be affected in any way; she states “the kids were innocent bystanders in the fights”.
In conclusion, domestic violence is a big issue, and children all around the world are greatly affected by it, sometimes for their whole lives. It can change a person’s whole life. Children can recover from this intense trauma. With friendships, self esteem, and a support system, children can get through this. In 2008, United Nations Secretary General, Ban-Ki Moon said “There is one universal truth, applicable to all countries, cultures and communities: violence against women is never acceptable, never excusable, never tolerable.” It really isn’t okay. And hopefully all children and victims will eventually recover. [18: ] [19: ]
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