If you and your child are currently in a violent relationship call and get help by calling 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE).
What does Domestic Violence Awareness mean to us as parents? The affects of domestic violence on children is profound. We worry about Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome in victims of war trauma and catastrophe while millions of children suffer from the symptoms of PTSD from witnessing domestic violence.
As adults we often hear of the flight, fight, and freeze response to life threatening situations. For a child the option of fighting or even running away is not an option. The infant brain is just developing. It begins to develop in the brain stem where blood pressure, sleep, heart rate and other basics to life originate. Then it moves to the limbic system where emotions evolve. Eventually it completes development in the cortex, the rational, analyzing part of the brain that is not completely developed until around age 25. Infants and small children cannot run or fight their abuse or their victim parent’s abuser. They are just too little and their brains are not mature enough to think things out. Being exposed to parents yelling, hitting, throwing things or having their cries for food or comfort ignored and met with pain causes the infant and young brain to respond by becoming very alert, numbing out to the stimulus and dissociating. The child’s brain prepares itself for survival and increases blood pressure, heart rate, increased body temperature and constant anxiety.
While all this is going on it becomes impossible for the child to learn basic information, pay attention to non-threatening stimulation, build empathy, and learn basic social skills. Being over alert causes an exaggerated startle response, or jumping at the least little noise. Numbing out causes loss of attention and dissociation can be as simple as day dreaming or as complex as fainting and memory loss. New studies show that children who do not attach to a parent figure in infancy are more susceptible to getting Post Traumatic Stress Symptoms as children and adults.
If your child has been exposed to domestic violence seek help along by finding a counselor who is rostered with South Carolina’s MUSC Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. This is an evidence based therapy that takes from 6 to 25 weeks. There is treatment. If you and your family are one of the very many families where violence is not a part of your relationship then you can see how important that is to your child and you can help by providing information to others. Stopping domestic violence will mean treating children before they begin to become violent themselves and establishing an environment where frightening your spouse and/or children into doing what you want is not tolerated.
To find a therapist rostered with Project Best Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to academicdepartments.musc.edu/projectbest/roster/roster.htm.
Information for this article includes the source Ghost’s from the Nursery– Tracing the Roots of Violence by Robin Karr-Morse and Meredith S. Wiley.