Lighted Pathways: Child Advocacy Program
Astounding statistics reported by the Children’s Defense Fund, “An estimated 3 to 4 million women in the United States are battered each year by their partners, In homes where domestic violence occurs, children are seriously abused or neglected at a rate 1500% higher than the national average in the general population, Between 2.3 and 10 million children are witnesses to family violence, Based on an estimate of 2 children per household, in 55% of violent homes, at least 3.3 million children in the U.S. are at risk of witnessing domestic violence each year,” (Retrieved, 10/12/2011, http://cdf.childrensdefense.org). Domestic violence is a crime that affects every member of the family, including children. Many times children remain the silent victims that are abused both physically and psychologically. Family violence creates an environment where children live in constant fear and confusion. They are psychologically torn between the abusive parent and the parent who is subject to the abuse. They are affected in ways that make it hard to establish nurturing bonds with either parent. “Each year an estimated 3.3 million children are exposed to violence against their mothers or female caretakers by family members,” (American Psychological Association, Violence and the Family: Report of the APA Presidential Task Force on Violence and the Family,1996). According to a recent national survey, only about one quarter of domestic violence is reported to the police, making it difficult to accurately estimate the number of actual victims. The children in families where domestic violence occurs are exposed to violence in various ways and the effects usually manifest themselves much like that of an abused or neglected child. Because they may be direct witnesses to the abuse, many suffer irreversible emotional damage. They may also be in harm’s way themselves, have their lives disrupted by moving or being separated from parents, be used by the batterer to manipulate or gain control over the victim, and they themselves are more likely to be abused. According to a 2006 UNICEF World Report on Violence Against Children, “Exposure to domestic violence is widespread internationally and it is associated with other forms of child maltreatment.” Children can be direct witnesses to domestic violence; they may see abusive incidents or hear violence. Children are usually considered secondary victims because they are witness to the violence. This can be harmful psychologically and emotionally. According to a study published in 2003, “Over 15 million children in the U.S. lived in families where intimate partner violence had occurred at least once in the past year, and seven million children live in families in which severe partner violence occurred,” Whitfield, Anda, Dube, & Felittle (2003), Violent Childhood Experiences and the Risk of Intimate Partner Violence in Adults: Assessment in a Large Health Maintenance Organization. “In a 2007 study in the U.S. 38% of incidents of intimate partner violence which involve female victims, children under age 12 were residents of the household,” Catalano & Shannan (2007), Intimate Partner Violence in the United States. Children can be displaced by the domestic violence when they seek shelter along with their abused parent. While statistics are not available globally, many shelters take in children as well as their abused parent. According to a study of domestic violence shelters and services in the U.S., in a single day in 2008, 16,458 children were living in a domestic violence shelter or transitional housing facility, while an additional 6,430 children sought services at a non-residential program. From: The National Network to End Domestic Violence, (2009). Domestic Violence Counts 2008: A 24-hour Census of Domestic Violence Shelters and Services. These children see no way out of their situation. They withdraw and become fearful. Depression,...
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