Marriages are usually created out of love for one another, but they can quickly devolve into a different type of relationship. Sadly, many marriages turn abusive, whether verbally and emotionally, or physically. While domestic violence can certainly place a victim in harm’s way and have an emotional effect on him or her, it can also have severe implications for children who reside in a home where domestic violence occurs.
Domestic violence can have a profound impact on children. To start, oftentimes children feel guilty for any abuse occurring in the family home. They sometimes think that if they had just acted differently, then the violence could have been prevented. This is, of course, an unrealistic belief held by these children, but their feelings can lead to embarrassment, humiliation and, in some instances, rage. Exposure to domestic violence, which can include hearing, seeing or merely knowing about the violence, can leave a child feeling isolated and afraid.
But the negative effects don’t stop there. Children who are exposed to domestic violence can develop sleep disruptions, depression and sadness. They may revert in their behaviors, which could lead to bedwetting, and their concentration may wane. They can also develop other physical symptoms, such as extensive stomach aches and headaches.
There are long-term effects tied to domestic violence exposure, too. Boys who grow up in these violent environments are more likely to become abusers because they often see violence as a viable problem-solving tool and girls in these situations can grow up to see violence as an acceptable part of a loving relationship.
With their children’s and their own safety and well-being on the line, domestic violence victims need to consider any and every step they can take to protect themselves and their family. Obtaining some sort of restraining order may prove beneficial, but they are limited in nature and sometimes don’t include children, particularly when child custody and visitation issues arise. Therefore, it is also advisable to consider seeking sole physical custody of children in this situation in hopes of taking them away from a domestic violence aggressor. Those who are interested in learning more about what they need to do to establish or modify child custody or visitation rights should discuss the matter with an experienced family law attorney.