Every time the word ‘violence’ is mentioned, a number of things might come into one’s mind. Some might picture an individual being murdered, some might picture one being beaten up by either an individual or a gang while others might picture a woman being raped or children being sexually abused by adults (Adler & Denmark, 1995). In most cases, they are not wrong. Violence does come in different forms and it is the degree of it which creates the difference. Almost 30% of families all around the world have experienced and are still experiencing violence in the family in the last 15 years (Ibid, 1995).
Unfortunately, the most commonly affected parties to family violence are women and children. This has manifested itself in form of either verbal abuse, sexual abuse, financial abuse or psychological abuse (Gunby, 2007). The society in general tends to ignore this fact and turns a blind eye to the rapidly increasing cases of violence in the family. It has also come to view the incident as the norm of the day, concluding that nothing can be done to improve the issue or curb the dangerous problem.
Present society has forgotten that those affected, many of whom are children and young adults, are the future of tomorrow, hence what happens to them today will definitely affect the future (Jaffe, et al., 1992). The children who should be nurtured in love and care are the same ones who are witnessing their mothers being abused by their fathers and they themselves falling victims to violence in the family (Gunby, 2007). Family violence has taken a deep root in present day society and no one is to blame apart from the community itself.
People often always confuse family violence with domestic violence. Though both of them occur in the matrimonial home and have the same effect on children, they are also slightly different (Jaffe, et al., 1992).
Domestic violence is whereby the resulting effect is injury to the person involved, that is, it is often physical for instance assault (Adler & Denmark, 1995). This is mostly common between spouses, though more often than not, children are in the end caught in between. Since majority of individuals rarely report cases of domestic abuse, it is difficult to establish just how common domestic violence is. But the fact is that it does affect individuals of all levels of education and income, regardless of their age (Ibid, 1995). There is no distinctive victim in domestic violence.
More often than not domestic violence tends to be ignored or denied by the community especially when the damages are more psychological than physical. Even though emotional abuse is on the minimum, long term and deep scars are often left with the victim (Lund & Miller, 1985). The main reason why domestic violence occurs is for the sole purpose of gaining control over the intended victim. Use of shame, fear, intimidation and also guilt is present to ensure maintenance of total control over the victim (Adler & Denmark, 1995). There is no discrimination in domestic violence and the abuser might go to an extent of abusing those close to the intended victim. Despite women and children being commonly victimised in domestic violence, men also fall prey to it by either being verbally, financially or emotionally abused (Gunby, 2007).
On the other hand, family violence does not always result to physical injury but is mostly verbal, emotional as well as psychological. In this case, woman abuse is often a sing of child abuse (Jaffe, et al., 1992). Family violence is mostly spousal and unfortunately children also fall victim directly or indirectly.
In most societies around the world there is a common myth believed by individuals that children are not usually aware that their mother is being abused, so they are not affected. The truth of the matter is that even though the society tends to turn their backs on the matter, children are the most affected in cases of family violence (Lund & Miller, 1985). Violence is more a learned behaviour than an inborn one hence those children who have experienced or witnessed violence in the family may learn to repeat the patterns as adults (Gunby, 2007). Male children who have witnessed their mothers being assaulted have a higher chance of battering or abusing their female partners once they become adults.
Institutions as well as schools have also bore the brunt of family violence in that those children hailing from such families more often than not engage in violent acts, are enraged and act out their frustrations on their fellow schoolmates and workmates (Adler & Denmark, 1995). This sometimes is also extended to animals and authority figures.
Being the foundation for a number of community’s social problems, family violence is the main drain on domestic economy and as long as people do not ask, those being victimised will not and cannot speak out on what is going on at home (Lund & Miller, 1985). Those children who have either witnessed or experiences family violence in the end suffer stress disorders, low self esteem as well as develop feelings of being totally powerless. On the other hand, those women who are abused may turn to alcohol and other drugs for relief and in the process become alcoholics and drug addicts (Jaffe, et al., 1992). The abused women might also develop mental or emotional illness thus rendering them incapable of fulfilling their parental responsibilities. Children of battered mothers are at a higher risk of sexually acting out, becoming alcoholics, isolating themselves from the world, running away from home as well as committing suicide or having suicidal thoughts (Ibid, 1992).
There are a number of behaviours normally associated with children who have either witnessed or experienced violence in the family. They include insomnia (being tired often and finding it difficult to fall asleep), nail biting, bed wetting or ulcers, hair pulling, nightmares, anxiety, temper tantrums, depression, low self esteem, suicidal ideation as well as fear of being touched (Gunby, 2007). Children brought up in violent settings usually take up adult responsibility that more often than not delay their emotional and physical development. They also develop poor definitions of values and self whereas emotional abuse results to fostering of powerlessness and confusion (Ibid, 2007). Children are therefore very much aware that their mothers are being abused and often become a part of it hence are greatly affected.
Those children living under chaotic environments normally try to protect the victim in this case their mothers and as a result are used by both parents against each other (Jaffe, et al., 1992). They then tend to feel ashamed and guilty thus isolating themselves from other family members as well as their peers. They fail to understand the reason as to why the two people they love the most are hurting (Ibid, 1992). The effects of children from violent families often extend to school in that they have incredible difficulty in studying. They are unable to fully concentrate in class or complete assignments thus performing poorly academically (Gunby, 2007). In other cases those children may try to compensate for their unfavourable home environments by becoming over achievers or by solely concentrating on one main activity for instance sports or academics (Ibid, 2007).
With the current family situation of parents being too busy as well as too involved in violence towards each other to pay proper attention to their children, grandparents in some cases find themselves charged with the responsibility of bringing up their children’s children (Lund & Miller, 1985). In homes with family violence, children might be sent to live with their uncles, aunts or grandparents until their own parents try and resolve their family issues. This leads to the children becoming more isolated and depressed.
Recent studies have revealed that among the 50% to 70% of cases of family violence, the children are also abused physically by their parents (Adler & Denmark, 1995). Chances of repeated violent behavioural patterns by the children once they become adults are also very high. An example is given of an abuser who had threatened to go to a shelter in North Florida and not only to kill his intended victim but also anyone else who would stand in his way (Jaffe, et al., 1992). Upon investigation and questioning the abuser, it was revealed that the reason why he had known the location of the shelter was because as a child he lived there after his mother ran away from home.
In refugee camps almost 90% of the children are said to have witnessed family violence while 50% have been physically abused (Gunby, 2007). Despite the common myth that children are not aware of family violence and are thus not affected, they are intimately involved with it. They usually witness or hear it. The beatings received by their mothers occur to punctuation of their cries as well as screams from being frightened (Lund & Miller, 1985). In cases where both caregivers are involved, conflicts often arise between the child’s loyalty towards the victim (mother) and the assailant (father). These children normally grow up knowing that violence is part and parcel of a close sexual relationship between adults hence carry this belief into their own marriages (Adler & Denmark, 1995). They also tend to accept violence from their partners as well as friends. Those children who only hear violence in the family are affected as much as those who witness it.
Just like domestic violence, family violence originated from one spouse wanting to gain or have total control over the other (Jaffe, et al., 1992). This is often demonstrated through verbal abuse, psychological and emotional abuse. On very rare incidences does it result to physical injury (Adler & Denmark, 1995).
Unfortunately due to the society’s ignorance and neglect of the issue a common myth has emerged to try and cover up family violence. The community has come to believe that children in violent families are often not aware hence are not affected. This has in turn led to a number of repercussions in terms of community response and practise. Debunking is whereby pretence and falseness concerning a certain issue is exposed (Adler & Denmark, 1995). Debunking of this common myth has tried to be implemented in the society but since those who fall victim to it rarely report it, the community fails to respond to family violence as required (Lund & Miller, 1985). The community is also not well educated on the dangers of family violence towards children and what it can result in presently as well as in the future.
Family violence dates back as far as the early 1970s where during that time the very first shelter for battered women was established, followed shortly by many others (Jaffe, et al., 1992). It is important and should be considered as a priority for the community to give out a clear message to individuals who commit family violence that their behaviour is not and cannot be tolerated. Those affected by family and domestic violence may be hesitant in reporting cases of violence to the police (Gunby, 2007). This in turn makes it difficult for both the law enforcers and community to respond appropriately and curb the rising menace.
Another repercussion resulting from family violence is the increase of violent crimes for instance murder. This occurs when the battered woman decides to act out in an attempt to end the abuse (Adler & Denmark, 1995). Not all forms of family violence are a violation of the law and in such cases the community fails to practise its neighbourly duties of being a brother’s keeper as it were. The rise in family violence is as a result of negligence on the community’s part (Lund & Miller, 1985).
In the recent past, many theories have been raised in trying to establish how family violence really occurs. They include social theories which emphasises mostly on external factors for instance stress and family structure and psychological theories which mainly consider personality traits as well as mental status of the abuser (Jaffe, et al., 1992). The social theory indicates that family violence occurs in instances where one of the spouses develops a desire for control as well as power in the relationship (Ibid, 1992). The spouse thus resorts to assault as a way of acquiring what he desires. He does this through threats, intimidations and battery, often extending it to the children. The social theory also suggests that family violence is as a result of the abuser feeling inferior and powerless thus projecting it externally through abuse (Gunby, 2007).
If family violence was not debunked, it would seem that we as a community would still remain ignorant of the issue. More and more women and children would fall victim to family violence with each passing day and the rate of crime such as murder would rapidly escalate (Adler & Denmark, 1995). No effort would be made by local government in trying to educate as well as provide adequate information on the issue of family violence to help the community control the menace (Jaffe, et al., 1992).
In order to curb the family violence menace, the community needs to introduce crisis intervention as well as counselling centres. This will help in showing the spouses ways of coping with stress or feelings of inferiority in a way that would not result in any abuse or violence. Local government should also offer its services to help with legal issues as concerns family violence.
In this way, women and children will be protected and thus the myth that children are unaware of occurrence of family violence, hence are not affected will be a thing of the past.
Adler, L. L. & Denmark, F. L., (Eds.) (1995) Violence and the Prevention of Violence. Westport. Ct: Praeger Publishers.
Gunby, P. (2007) The Abused Youngster in Twilight Years. Medical News; Vol. 241 (1). pp. 18 – 19.
Jaffe, P. G., Sudermann, M., and Reitzel, D. (1992) Child Witnesses of Marital Violence. In Assessment of Family Violence: Clinical and Legal Courtbook, Eds.: Ammernand, R. T. & Hersen. M. Wiley. New York.
Lund, D., Feinhauer, L., and Miller, J. (1985) Living Together: Grandparents and Children tell their Problems. Journal of Gerontological Nursing; Vol. 11 (11). pp. 29 – 33.