The Cry Within – Overcoming Childhood Domestic Violence

Children are exposed to unacceptable rates of violence in the home. More than 1 in 9 (11 percent) were exposed to some form of family violence in the past year, including 1 in 15 (6.6 percent) exposed to Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) between parents (or between a parent and that parent’s partner). One in four children (26 percent) were exposed to at least one form of family violence during their lifetimes. Most youth exposed to family violence, including 90 percent of those exposed to IPV, saw the violence, as opposed to hearing it or other indirect forms of exposure

Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention

Here is my story:

My earliest memory of domestic violence in my home began at 7 years old. My stepfather was verbally and physically abusive towards my mother. Although, he was a loving man, his temper was explosive. I remember scary arguments that erupted into fights. I would be paralyzed with intense fear and anxiety. I wanted to protect my mother, but I was a defenseless child. All I could do was cower in a corner or run for safety with my baby brother. I felt helpless and traumatized. There is one incident I recall vividly. My parents were arguing for what seemed like hours, then my stepfather struck my mother in the face. I could hear crashing of objects and my mother screaming in distress “stop hitting me…please ”. I grabbed my brother’s hand and led him out of our apartment to my aunt’s apartment who lived below us on the second floor. Despite our palpable terror, my stepfather did not think twice about striking my mother repeatedly in front of us.

As time went on, more fights ensued between my parents; each one worse than the last. One time, to escape the violence,  I went outside and walked around the block with my brother in tow. My mother – trembling and battered found us sitting on the front stoop. I do not remember if 911 was called, but I recall the aftermath – broken glass, turned over furniture, and my mother in tears. I would ask myself, why a man who claimed to love us would cause so much fear and suffering?

My fight, flight, freeze responses were severely imbalanced from witnessing violence in my home. I was hyper vigilant and always on alert. I suffered with panic attacks even when no danger was present. Encounters with conflict of any kind would either cause an overreaction or no reaction at all. As a teenager, I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder called Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). Then later diagnosed with depression and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I was prescribed a variety of medication, but none of them provided relief. The root of my depression and anxiety was trauma. I did not want this to be my reality, but sadly it was. I was faced with a decision – be a victim or a victor. I chose the latter. So, I started on a course of therapy to overcome my trauma wounds.

According national statistics, Victims of childhood domestic violence are at higher risk of neurological disorders, chronic pain, disability, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as noncommunicable diseases such as hypertension, cancer and cardiovascular diseases, and addiction to alcohol, tobacco, or drugs.

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV)

This is my first public disclosure. For many years, I did not tell anyone about my diagnosis or about my experience with domestic violence as a child. I was embarrassed and feared being judged. I finally came to the realization that in order to heal, I must tell my story to empower other childhood domestic violence victims to begin their own healing journey.

If you know a child living in a home with domestic violence, get help immediately.

Resources:

  • National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7233
  • National Coalition Against Domestic Violence https://ncadv.org

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