Dear Rhonda and Dr. Cheri,
My two daughters saw me being violently abused by their father. I was hit, kicked, and punched when my oldest was four years old and I was pregnant with my next daughter.
My husband actually hit the older daughter with a shoe he threw at me and missed.
She also saw him jump on me when I was pregnant and scream in my face. She hid that time.
She was 10 years old when I left with them. I was a teacher, but had a hard time focusing and lost my job. It didn’t help that my sister put me down for leaving my husband.
I did finally get things together and we now live in a small apartment.
My oldest girl resents me now. She won’t have her friends over because she doesn’t want them to see her room she has to “share” with her little sister.
My younger daughter is mostly solitary. She always tells me she loves me. I think my other daughter loves me but she’s just confused. Maybe she’ll grow out of this stage.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3.3 million children witness domestic abuse in the US annually.
We know you are trying as hard as you can, however, kids who come from violent homes don’t “grow out of it.”
Many women like you go through denial, think their spouse will change, are scared they are responsible for a broken home, and are in so much pain emotionally, that it’s hard to figure out the ramifications of leaving. You are courageous to leave when you did.
Children who witness abuse and violence react in the following ways:
Substance abuse and other addictions
Date rape and sexual assault
Running away and skipping school
Continuing the cycle of violence
Feelings of guilt for their inability to stop the abuse
As adults, they are:
11 percent more likely to become an alcoholic
42 percent more likely experience chronic depression
10 percent more likely to commit suicide
The CDC reports that each year two million women are injured and 1,300 are killed in domestic violence incidents. Three women are murdered every day by their intimate partner.
Caregivers, family, and friends that create safe, nurturing, positive and healthy relationships with the witnessing children are the single most effective factor in their healing.
Most of all, give them love, be consistent with them, and create calm.
Rhonda and Dr. Cheri