The mental health scars of child victims of domestic violence


The mental health scars of child victims of domestic violence

By Charlotte Fantelli

Women’s Aid, a leading charity that helps support victims of domestic violence state ‘according to the Department of Health, at least 750,000 children a year witness domestic violence. In some cases, the children themselves will suffer physical or sexual abuse from the same perpetrator’. This is a massive statistic and one close to my heart.

From the age of 10 to the age of 18 I lived with domestic violence, however I will live with the scars forever, although over time they have healed a great deal. For me it wasn’t the violence that was the hard part, it was what it did to me emotionally and psychologically.

Most domestic violence does not come ‘out of the blue’, I remember so many people saying ‘If my partner hit me I’d run a mile’ and whilst I hope that is true, for most that experience domestic violence it certainly is not as clean cut.

The violence will usually be accompanied by psychological and emotional abuse, the perpetrator will often cut off and control their victims, this can occur long before the first blows are ever thrown. For the children caught in these situations the mental health cost can be big and long lasting.

‘I couldn’t sleep for years, even after my father had left, I was just so used to waking up with a jump at every noise’ Joyce Simmons tells me.

A sentiment I can certainly relate to. ‘Even as an adult I distrust men, I don’t suffer the flashbacks or anxiety like I once did, but it effects all my relationships’ Joyce continues. Joyce is unmarried and feels that this is due to her distrust.

I however am married, to a wonderful, gentle man, yet if I had a pound for every time he has turned to me in sadness and said ‘I am not him!’ as I have ducked or shrunk away from him in fear completely unnecessarily, I would be very rich.  It seems that the deep cuts though they fade in time, may be a part of me always. However, that does not make me flawed or bad, it just means I am human and have experienced trauma.

The point? Well the point is there is a vast number of children that have experienced domestic violence and feel the scars. Like any other section of society they/we must be treated for any mental ill effects we may suffer (please see our guides under ‘psychology’) but we must also be kind to ourselves, allow ourselves to feel the hurt, pain and distress and grieve for that part of our life.

Please see my blog which talks about my story in more detail here

A survivor of domestic violence blogs here

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