Domestic abuse is something we can’t trace back to a date. We have formed an acceptance for domestic abuse; we are aware it’s going on, but hardly do anything to help prevent it. In many domestic cases, the victim’s children are present while abuse is taking place. The Report of the American Psychological Association Presidential Task Force on Violence and the Family States, “a child exposed to the father abusing the mother is at the strongest risk for transmitting violent behavior from one generation to the next.” Due to this cycle, our society struggles to put an end to domestic abuse.
Children, who witness a parent’s abuse, become different people both physically and emotionally. In a interview with Alma Marquez, a masters student in Social Work at St. Kate University, claims, “When human beings experience really stressful situations, such as trauma, it changes the brain. You feel so unsafe you go back into the brain stem feelings of fight, flight, flee.”
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“If children who witness abuse don’t have someone to help them process it, they get stuck at the age when that trauma happens, they derive beliefs about themselves from those events that happened,” said Kathleen O’Brien, a Hennepin County Mental Health Counselor in school based clinics.
Mary, one of my own family members, witnessed her mother’s death due to domestic violence. “It changes your life; I’ve never been the same,” she said. She claims she has had relationship and mental health issues stemming from the abuse she witnessed. “All I could do was grab my little brother, and run because I thought we would be next.” Losing her mother and father when she was five years old to domestic abuse, Mary states, “To grow up without a mother, is like walking blind folding in a unfamiliar area.” Mary described the lack of love she felt, and the lack of self-worth she had to deal with her whole life.
The whole concept behind “Close your eyes and count to ten” is to emphasis the children, and how sometimes the abusive action is still being seen and heard. The title resembles the actions that are being imposed onto the children, whom usually have nothing to do with the violence taking place, sadly closing their eyes doesn’t protect them from everything.
O’Brien speaks of therapy’s that are available for children who have been exposed to abuse, she states “little kids need therapist that are experts with little kids, where they don’t need that language to process.” In play therapy the child plays and the therapist figure out the patterns and the reasoning behind it. Older children like to draw to express feelings, to still avoid the language. “So once they are in their pre-teens they can start creating dialogue about the situation, and using that to help undo the hurt that they have experienced.”
In the Twin Cities, There is a place that offers this type of help. D.A.P is a program committed to helping people whom are affected by domestic abuse. D.A.P. stands for Domestic Abuse Project. According to the website, D.A.P has programs to help the whole cycle of abuse. They have programs that target men, women, young men, and children. In the Children’s program, they offer individual services, and group services. The group services are age specific for children whom have witnessed domestic abuse. The goals of D.A.P.’s children groups are to help children break the secret of domestic abuse. The women, men, and young men programs are similar, but have their own unique spin.
As a person who lives in this community, I hope to see these numbers lowered, with programs such as DAP, and their aim to put families put back together opposed to being torn apart by domestic abuse, Maybe there is hope on the horizon.