Domestic Violence and the Effect on Children Essay

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Children who are victims of domestic violence situations often experience trauma and need help to cope with the lives and the negative experiences they feel. They will turn to abusing drugs and alcohol or engage in risky sexual activity in order to try to escape their trauma. In some cases, they lash out at their environment in response to the strain they are feeling. This can lead them to a life of crime and eventually to time served in prison. Understanding these issues and learning ways to help children who are victims of domestic violence is one way to make a positive difference in their lives and help communities to overcome their struggles.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV, 2017), there is a domestic violence situation occurring every twenty minutes in the U.S. In many cases, domestic violence situations focus on the individual who is attacked. However, when children are part of a family where domestic violence occurs, they may not be involved in the physical violence, but they may still experience the trauma. Children of domestic violence live in homes that are essentially devoid of the most basic human elements needed for proper human development to transpire. Maslow defined this development based upon the Hierarchy of Needs. Before an individual can grow to be self-actualizing, he must first obtain the basic necessities of life—food, shelter, and love. In a family where domestic violence is a quality of life, children are the unnoticed victims, whose lives are shaped and sometimes altered for the worse. This paper will discuss how domestic violence impacts children and what effects that has on the criminal justice system.

Freeman (2015) shows through case study what can happen to a small child who is the victim of a domestic violence situation. Freeman’s (2015) case study examines the life of Sophia, a witness to domestic violence at a young age. After being removed from her family and placed in several different foster homes, she does poorly in school, is maladjusted socially, gets in repeated fights, and is routinely viewed as a trouble maker in her neighborhood. Her environment had been non-conducive to appropriate growth and development and as a result she suffered from what has been identified as internal strain. According to strain theory, Sophia was a victim of an environment that had been rife with conflict and, unable to process that conflict in a healthy way, she lashed out at every new environment that she encountered. Sophia did not begin to turn her life around in a more positive direction until she came into contact with Life Space Crisis Intervention, an after-school program designed to help children from troubled backgrounds and give them the tools to help them develop positive traits, confidence, self-esteem and the capacity to achieve self-actualization.

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By allowing Sophia to vent in a healthy way, which the program calls “draining off,” Life Space Crisis Intervention helped to get the so-called toxic thoughts out of her system. Following that, the intervention group then allowed Sophia to give her side of recent struggles so that she could feel that she was being heard instead of always attacked. This led to the identification of the central issue in Sophia’s life, which the group helped Sophia to better understand. The group then focused on helping Sophia to develop new skills that she could use to process negative thoughts and feelings. In the end, Sophia began to develop more healthily and was able to avoid carrying over her juvenile delinquency into adulthood. However, not every child is so fortunate.

Barrett, Ju, Katsiyannis and Zhang (2015) show in their study that children are at a particularly vulnerable age because they are still attempting to understand the world in which they live while also relying on those who should be caring for them to provide them with the basic necessities of life. When those who should be caring for them instead show them violence, the children can become traumatized and seek either escape from the situation or turn to a life of delinquency in order to cope with the trauma. In many cases, as Barrett et al. (2015) show, these children go on to engage in a life of crime and end up in prison in their adulthood. Their study of female prisoners showed how must of the female prison population came from unstable homes where domestic violence was a common occurrence.

Childhood trauma can manifest itself in numerous ways. Some children run away from home and, encountering a life on the streets, turn to anyone who will offer them shelter or respite from their struggles. In many cases, “help” turns out to come from someone who is simply looking to exploit the child. Children in such cases are turned into drug addicts and used as sexual slaves as prostitutes. They grow up being victimized from one place to the next, never escaping that initial trauma that was suffered as a result of their early domestic violence situation (Ekinci & Kandemir, 2015).

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Barrett, D., Ju, S., Katsiyannis, A., Zhang, D. (2015). Females in the juvenile justice system: influences on delinquency and recidivism. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 24: 427-433.

Ekinci, S. & Kandemir, H. (2015). Childhood trauma in the lives of substance dependent patients: The relationship between depression, anxiety and self-esteem. Nord Journal Psychiatry, 69(4), 249-253.

Freeman, J. (2015). Developing Social Skills and Relationships. Reclaiming Children & Youth, 23(4), 48-51.

Giordano, A., Prosek, E., Stamman, J. et al. (2016). Addressing Trauma in Substance Abuse Treatment. Journal of Alcohol and Drug Addiction, 60(2): 55-71.

NCADV. (2017). Statistics. Retrieved from

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