It is estimated that 90% of all domestic violence and abuse is perpetrated in front of children. There are a number of “reasons” for this fact that I can directly relate to my own experiences. A few of the dynamics that result for children who are raised in an environment of domestic violence and abuse (DV&A) are:
* children will ally themselves with the perpetrator to avoid being targeted, themselves.
* children will view the “victim” as helpless and powerless (solidifying the alliance with the abuser).
* victim-parents will martyr themselves in a misdirected attempt to “protect” the children from abuse and violence which teaches children that the victim-parent gender is pathetic and that “sacrifice,” on any level, is a weakness to be exploited.
* adult victims are demeaned, devalued, dehumanized, and objectified as a means of absolute control by the perpetrator which teaches the children that their victim-parent is useless, untrustworthy, and unstable.
Certainly, there are a host of other “reasons” that DV&A is perpetrated in front of children, but the above are the most common.
It is also an important fact to note that a DV&A victim-parent typically develops into a perpetrator of abuse against the children involved, regardless of what misconceived notions people have as a result of movies and media dramatization. What typically occurs is that the abuser dominates the adult victim via emotional, verbal, physical, sexual, spiritual, and financial abuse – every level of the victim’s life is determined by the abuser. To maintain the alignment between perpetrator and child victims, an abuser will often “require” or obligate the victim-parent to carry out the abuse of the child(ren) in a clear demonstration that the victim-parent is not to be trusted and is the abuser in the family.
In the case of my own experiences with my abusive ex-husband, Victor, his dominance was complete. He feared and loathed women, yet coveted the “control” that he attributed to female genitalia. In his own words, Victor bitterly complained in front of our sons, “…women control men with their vaginas. They know that men want sex, and they use sex to control men.” To further demonstrate Victor’s views on women, he literally forced our eldest son, “Mike,” to watch a segment from one of the “Faces Of Death” movies that graphically depicted various ways that people met their life’s ends. The segment that Victor forced Mike to watch showed teenaged girls involved in a cult video-recording the decapitation of a male victim for ritualistic purposes.
I had begged Victor not to do this – I knew that the imagery was far too graphic for any child to process, especially one who had already exhibited behavioral issues. The more I begged Victor to stop the movie, the more glee he took in my horror and Mike’s reactions to the imagery. Throughout this segment, Victor kept repeating that “…all women were dangerous,” regardless of how wholesome or pretty they might appear. My expressions of outrage were met with vicious punches to my upper thigh (the bruises wouldn’t be visible) and Victor screaming, “Why do you always try to undermine my authority?!” Mike was absorbing this behavior and applied it to his own disturbed views of human interactions.
Essentially, Mike was taught that women were literally objects to be feared, loathed, and abused, and he didn’t fail in these teachings. He has been married three times and is 27, at this writing. His first wife was nearly choked to death when she was 3 months pregnant, and suffered months of abuse before she got out – she made the difficult decision to abort her pregnancy. The second wife was a timid and self-conscious young woman that participated in abuse of anabolic steroids to produce an actual male-oriented physical appearance as per Mike’s desires. The third wife was procured as a Russian mail-order bride.
In all of these relationships, Mike appeared to be a “victim,” even with the violent physical assault of his first wife. He claimed that he was suffering seizures, and this claim was refuted by a series of EEG’s by military physicians. The only thing that Mike “learned” in his first marriage was that physical abuse was easily proved – other abuses were far more difficult to prove, especially when he was able to present a rational and reasonable facade which he is still able to perform successfully.
Mike carries the sins of his father like a trophy. He has no qualms about using and abusing others to his own designs, and this includes grossly illegal activities and choices. These events will require future discussion, as they are too numerous and detailed to recollect at this writing.
“Bob,” is Mike’s younger brother and has experienced neglect, abandonment, and abuse on every level, and is currently battling his perceived helplessness and powerlessness and it is impossible to predict whether he will ever recover from his experiences with Victor, Mike, me, and others.
Children of abuse
Children raised in abusive or violent dynamics have two possible outcomes: a) developing into a more creative abuser, or b) developing into a more helpless and powerless victim than their predecessors. It is a very, very rare occurance that a child raised in an environment of domestic violence and/or abuse will emerge as an emotionally healthy and productive individual – this scenario is atypical and mainly wishful thinking.
Children are NOT resilient in the ways that adults perceive them to be. They appear to be resilient because adults want them to be so. The truth is that they learn, very quickly, to hide their feelings and emotions and to keep family secrets very well guarded. Children learn (or, are outright taught) to lie in a flawed belief that they are “protecting” their parents and family from shame. Children become so trauma-bound to their abusers that they rarely emerge from their experiences without developing into a perfect victim, or a perfect abuser, themselves. It is my unprofessional opinion that children who are raised in DV&A dynamics never “recover” from their experiences without intensive counseling therapy to process the experiences and the dreadful personal core issues that resulted.
Remaining in an abusive or violent union for the “sakes of the children” is the most grievous mistake any victim could possibly make. Nothing positive is to be gained by forcing a child to choose the role of perpetrator or victim as a Life’s Course. My eldest son is beyond repair and maintains a stranglehold on his younger brother who may, or may not, emerge from his childhood experiences. Only time will tell.