by Brandi Ziegler, Children’s Advocate
That is the estimated number of American children living in households with domestic violence, according to the Journal of Family Psychology. Nearly half of those children – 7 million – were routinely exposed to severe violence. This exposure is occurring at alarming rates for children of all races, religions, socio-economic classes, and abilities; and can result in lasting impacts on their physical, emotional, and cognitive well-being.
Small children exposed to violence may experience a number of behavioral changes, including: trouble sleeping, excessive irritability, frequent displays of aggression, severe separation and social anxiety, speech issues, and developmental delays or regressions. School-aged children will exhibit many of the same behavioral changes, but may also experience trouble focusing – impacting their ability to excel academically. Studies suggest that approximately 40 percent of school aged children living in violent homes test below their grade-related reading levels.
For teenagers, living in a violent household can have severe consequences. Studies show that teens regularly exposed to violence are at an increased risk for: depression, suicide, drug and alcohol use, juvenile pregnancy, criminal behaviors, and repeating the cycle of abuse in their own relationships.
Luckily, none of the behavioral and emotional changes caused by domestic violence have to be permanent. It only takes one supportive person in a child’s life to help them succeed. The SafeCenter, serving Clinton and Shiawassee counties, offers a variety of services for these youth.
H.O.P.E. (Help Overcoming & Processing Emotions) is a support group designed for children who have been exposed to violence in their households. Meetings are held every Tuesday from 4:15 to 5:15 p.m. Children can also participate in individual counseling sessions with an experienced advocate. All services are free and confidential. Please call SafeCenter at (989) 723-9716 for enrollment information, or to speak with an advocate regarding your child.
SafeCenter is a nonprofit agency whose vision is for all individuals to experience the right to be free from violence. Their mission is to build comprehensive and sustainable community strategies to eliminate domestic and sexual violence in Clinton and Shiawassee Counties. Services include 24-hour crisis line, emergency shelter, counseling and advocacy services and transitional housing.