REASONS WHY IT MIGHT BE HARD FOR KIDS TO TALK
- Told in the past and nothing happened.
- Told in the past and Mom got mad.
- Told in the past, Dad found out and Mom / family got hurt.
- Tried to tell in the past and no one listened.
- Fear Dad will find out and kill Mom / them (he may have threatened this).
- Believe that Dad is omnipotent and will hear them.
- Fear access will be stopped.
- Want extra benefits of seeing Dad.
- Fearful that Dad will go to jail.
- Shame: Protecting Mom / Dad / Family reputation.
- Need to believe that Dad loves them and would not hurt them intentionally.
- May not remember what happened.
- Need to remain in contact with Dad to assess his danger.
- Angry and blame both parents.
- Don’t have the language / words.
- Think abuse is normal.
THE EFFECTS UPON CHILDREN OF WITNESSING WOMAN ABUSE
Relationships with Parents
- Loss of respect for Mom because they see her as weak and ineffectual, she is then unable to enforce boundaries.
- Ambivalent feelings towards both parents, love Dad but hate him for what he does, love Mom but hate her for not stopping the abuse.
- Family relationships become distant / enmeshed versus stable / cohesive / flexible family unit.
- Diminished respect for both parents, don’t want to be like either one of them.
- May become responsible for parents — the parentified child. The child may feel responsible and the parents may treat the child in age / role inappropriate ways.
- May see Dad as emotionally inaccessible and then always be looking for the right time to approach him.
- They may have few direct ways of getting needs met and end up resorting to manipulative behaviour.
Effects on Health
- Somatic complaints.
- Nervous / anxious: a sense that something will happen.
- Short attention span, many children will be diagnosed with ADHD.
- Failure to thrive and / or move through developmental tasks.
- Stress related illness. Illness may be the only time they get any nurturing.
- Confusion between illness and depression, in young children the symptoms may appear quite similar.
- May feign illness as a way to stay home because they want to be home to protect Mom.
- As a way to keep others distant they may not attend to personal hygiene.
- Unable to risk getting to know new kids, few close friendships.
- Can’t solve problems so relationships end.
- Poor boundaries: tries to parent other kids, does not respect others’ privacy, personal space, may be reticent about giving personal info.
- Lack of confidence in own abilities, gives up easily, won’t try new things and is no fun for other kids.
- Sense of not fitting in, mixture of mature / immature behaviour, no one else is like me.
- Competition with siblings.
- Isolated, no one really likes me, afraid of bullies, doesn’t really know how to react to other kids.
- Trouble trusting because of the violation of the primary trust with parents.
- Perception of conflict as being inherently disrespectful, poor to no conflict resolution skills.
- Occupies either a passive or bullying role with respect to other kids.
Effects on Behaviour
- Acting out or withdrawing.
- Over / underachieving: motivation is the issue. Self-esteem relies on external validation so nothing but the very best performance is good enough.
- Passive / aggressive, rarely assertive.
- Care-taking, acting in adult roles.
- Rigid defences: aloof, sarcastic, blaming.
- Nightmares and other sleep problems.
- Age inappropriate behaviour, mixture of mature and immature behaviour.
- Scared all the time because the world is an unpredictable place.
- Responsible for the abuse, for parents staying together or separating, to protect Mom and other kids, for keeping the secret, taking care of things ….
- Parents may respond poorly to kids’ feelings, than they don’t learn how to express themselves and don’t feel safe to even try.
- Distorted boundaries: tight or lose versus flexible.
- Weak or rigid personal boundaries.
- Dad is the only one allowed to indulge in self-expression.
- Mom often receives increased abuse for her expressions which may include crying.