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Different strategies can help victims deal with violence

Published on -7/14/2014, 9:56 AM

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This is the 10th in a series about domestic violence.

Q: What strategies can help children who live with domestic violence?

A: Understanding the effect of domestic violence on children is the beginning of knowing how to help children caught in the dilemma. Children from violent homes share the following feelings, according to Irene van der Zande, founder and executive director of Kidpower.

* Feeling hopeless and helpless.

* Copying the abusive behavior of one parent or the victim behavior of the other parent.

* Believing the violence is their fault, especially since parents will blame the children for causing conflict.

* Feeling responsible to stop the violence in the home.

From the 2008 Domestic Violence Roundtable publication from Sudbury-Wayland-Lincoln Massachusetts, not helping children contributes to many problems in childhood, adolescence and adulthood. Boys who experience domestic violence are more likely to abuse female partners than boys from nonviolent families. Girls from homes with domestic violence might develop beliefs that intimidation and violence are norms in family relationships.

Children who do not get any help to cope with violent backgrounds have higher risks for alcohol and other drug abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, delinquency and adult criminality. The number one reason children run away is living in a home with domestic violence.

The Children's Bureau, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, published an article in the Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2009, recommending the integration of domestic violence intervention with child-abuse interventions. A collaboration approach would provide more comprehensive and better services and eliminate overlapping services. Professional workers can advocate for the whole family rather than for whichever clients they see.

The National Resource Center for Family Centered Practice and Permanency Planning, 2006, recommended the following measures to integrate domestic violence services with child welfare.

* Identify and assess domestic violence in all child welfare cases.

* Provide services to families where domestic violence has been identified (even if child abuse has not been substantiated), including helping abused women protect themselves and their children using non-coercive, supportive and empowering interventions whenever possible.

* Hold perpetrators of domestic violence accountable for stopping the violent behavior in order to protect children.

The Prosecuting Attorney's office from Clark County in Indiana stated in an article in 1992 children benefit from interventions by the law and by domestic violence programs. Children need to be taught, when young, non-violent methods of conflict resolution. That cannot be accomplished with children living in violent households.

In an article about how to help children in violent homes, published by Futures without Violence, psychotherapy for mothers and children in family therapy together can increase quality parenting and increase positive results for children. Abusive men concerned about the welfare of their children and the children of their partners might become motivated to stop violence when they understand the effects and devastation on their children. Another recommendation for children is a safe, nurturing, stable relationship with an adult who cares. Such a relationship can be the mother or a close relative who can spend time with children in positive ways.

In an article on Family Violence, Spring 2011, the Topic of Solutions and Preventions regarding inter-generational family violence, offered ways to contain or stop the transmission of domestic violence from one generation to another. The first recommendation is to establish a beneficial support system that includes families, friends and coworkers. The second recommendation to end family violence is individual therapy. Therapists have abilities to challenge the thinking of perpetrators and offer options to the abuse measures used by perpetrators. However, abusers must be motivated to change.

Another treatment option is group therapy. This option can be enlightening for abusers to hear others talk about their actions and why they want to change. Group therapy might be less threatening than individual counseling. A third option could be couples counseling in which partners are seen together.

Resiliency is an ability to recover from misfortune, and it is a significant factor in ending inter-generational transmission of violence. The quality of resiliency depends on the age of the child traumatized, individual traits and the availability of a support system. Younger children experiencing family violence have harder times recovering.

Children deal with stress either by internalizing their own emotions or by externalizing their own feelings. Internalizing leads to depression and anxiety. Children who externalize stress demonstrate delinquency and violence as adults.

Traits of resiliency include high self-esteem, strong social support networks and independence. These skills do not prevent problems but are tools useful in crises. To the contrary, risk traits interfere with a person's ability to cope with stress. The risk traits are the opposite of resilient characteristics. Risk traits include low self-esteem, inadequate social support systems and a lack of skills for conflict resolution.

Children with resiliency traits are more likely to move on from violence in their past lives. If the children are resilient, they will be able to break the cycles of violence from one generation to another.

* Next week's discussion will be how families and friends can help domestic violence victims.

Judy Caprez is associate professor

of social work at Fort Hays State University. Send your questions

in care of the department of

sociology and social work.

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