Impact of Domestic Violence on Children
WEAVE knows that children raised in homes with domestic violence experience the same trauma as the abused parent, but they may lack the capacity to process the abuse. WEAVE has been a leader in supporting these young victims and their unique experiences.
Without recognition and intervention, children who live with daily exposure to domestic violence will endure lifelong barriers to healthy relationships and healthy lives. More than half of our shelter residents are children ages 17 and younger. At the Safehouse, we offer an array of specialized children’s services to help combat the trauma these youngest victims have experienced.
We understand that domestic violence is linked to other forms of child abuse, and we know that more than half of the children in violent homes experience physical abuse and neglect. We hear the stories from mothers struggling to meet the most basic of needs while enduring relentless abuse — knowing their children are suffering. We hear from children who talk about the injuries they sustain when they try to intervene in the violence or anger the abuser. Even when the child is not physically abused or neglected, exposure to domestic violence is one aspect of “Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).” These are stressful or traumatic events that strongly impact development and lead to a wide variety of health problems. ACEs include physical, emotional, and sexual abuse experienced by the child, and they encompass neglect and exposure to violence outside the home as well. Decades of ACEs research shows the importance of recognizing childhood trauma and addressing the impact of toxic stress on children. Without recognition and intervention, children who live with daily exposure to domestic violence will endure lifelong barriers to healthy relationships and healthy lives. More than half of our shelter residents are children ages 17 and younger. At the Safehouse, we offer an array of specialized children’s services to help combat the trauma these youngest victims have experienced.
It is common for children to enter the Safehouse being very guarded. Once they realize it is a safe place, they may act out physically and verbally because they are finally able to do so without fear of violence. Children may express anger at the non-abusive parent or feel guilt for loving the abuser. All of these feelings are normal, and it is critical that children have access to therapeutic support to understand and heal. Dedicated Children’s Counselors are onsite, just for this reason. These counselors use developmentally appropriate therapies to help children process the abuse and develop coping skills. This includes using art and sand tray therapy to help children articulate their experiences. The healing that begins and coping skills learned stay with these children long after they leave the Safehouse campus. In addition, the Safehouse campus provides much more than therapy.
We know that children need time to just be kids. To play. To run. To shout with joy. Children from violent homes have not had this opportunity. They are kept close to home to avoid angering the abuser. They stay quiet for fear of triggering another violent attack. Any friendships come with the burden of keeping secret what happens in their home and limits play dates and sleepovers. At the Safehouse, there are no secrets. The children share the experience of domestic violence, and they are provided a three-acre campus with an amazing playground, a Nature Explore Outdoor Classroom, and a Children’s Center for indoor activities such as reading or baking. Playcare Advocates are onsite to provide structured play time games, one-on-one time doing puzzles, and small group activities to provide mothers and children with much needed respite.
The Safehouse campus includes a K-12 onsite charter school, and children are required by law to be enrolled in school within 72 hours of entering the Safehouse. Returning to their school may not be safe, as the abusive parent will know their schedule and may stalk and harm the family at the school. The Safehouse Charter School is taught by a credentialed bilingual teacher who helps children stay on track and even make up academic deficiencies.