For eight months I led weekly support groups for children living in domestic violence situations. I loved spending time with those kids. Their artwork still hangs on my refrigerator.
Each child I met during that time responded to their situation differently. Some were happy and loved to give hugs. Some were begging for the attention their parents either would not or could not give. Some were very reserved. Some could not sit still. Some were constantly fighting with one another. Some exhibited all of these qualities in one day.
We did a lot of coloring, especially when it was too cold to play outside. I will never forget the night one little girl asked me if I liked her picture.
“That’s beautiful,” I told her, admiring the drawing and the colors she had chosen. “You’re very creative.”
Her immediate response caught me off guard. “You’re just saying that. You don’t really like it.”
In all my years of coloring, never once had a child retaliated against a compliment toward their artwork.
I answered, “I would not say something unless I meant it. I think you are very talented.”
Again, she denied my sincerity. This sort of conversation continued throughout the evening. She would ask me something: “Do you like my shirt?” “Do you think I’m pretty?” “Do you think I can dance good?”
I would reply: “Yes, I do.”
I did like her shirt, she was beautiful, and she had a rhythm most of us could only dream of acquiring by the age of 8. But she was so ready to receive a negative answer that my positive answers were actually bothering her.
Like so many other children living in a domestically abusive home, she had been led to believe that she was not special or important. Praise was so foreign to her that she instantly denied the sincerity of the affirmation. I saw a genuinely wonderful, creative little girl trying desperately to find value in something she could do, despite her constant expectation of rejection. She had come to believe two of the greatest lies of domestic violence; that she was worthless and unlovable.
How does a four-year-old cope emotionally when his home is a war zone?
How does an eight-year-old protect herself when her caretaker becomes violent?
Children of Domestic Violence exists to educate and encourage child and adult survivors of childhood domestic violence.
According to UNICEF, there are roughly 275 million children worldwide living in domestic violence situations.
90% of adults living with violent partners believe their children are unaware of the abuse. 90% of those children know about the violence.
The psychological trauma experienced by children in abusive homes is severe. Whether a child is the target for the violence or a witness to the violence, their development will be negatively affected. The emotional, mental, physical, sexual, cognitive, behavioral, and social ramifications of abuse are serious and may affect a child throughout their entire life.
For more information on domestic violence and its effect on children, please access the link to the Children of Domestic Violence homepage, provided above (in English, Spanish, or French), or select any of the resources below.