By Lisok James Moses
Domestic Violence also known as Family abuse or Family violence is an act of violence or abuse against a person living in one’s household, especially a member of one’s immediate family. This also can be the inflicting of physical injury by one family or household member on another; a repeated or habitual pattern of such behavior.
The victims of this inhuman act are globally overwhelmingly children and their mothers without any doubt and the perpetrators are largely men (fathers). They tend to experience severe and numerous forms of violence especially in war torn countries of which South Sudan isn’t any different. During war, the relevant authorities don’t have the time to protect, prevent and educate the community about domestic violence (DV) or violence against children and its negative effects on school going children as they’re busy in wars. But since domestic violence is often and likelier to be committed by a family member against the other, this sums up the complexity of the act of DV against school children and their abusers.
Children that are exposed to violence at home are also victims of physical abuse and children who also witness domestic violence at home or around are victims of abuse themselves and are at serious risk for long-term physical and mental health problems. Children from a home with domestic or from a home busy with domestic violence between parents are at greater risk of being violent at home and at school as all they see is violence and violence as the best way of solving any differences that arise between them and their colleagues both at home and at school. Parents who are experiencing abuse or a family that is busy with domestic violence has no chance of protecting their child from violence and violent influence.
A child from a family busy with domestic violence suffer emotional and psychological trauma from the impact of living in a household that is dominated by tension and fear. The children will see always their mother threatened, demeaned or physically or sexually assaulted. They will overhear conflict and violence and see the aftermath of such violence causing their mother’s injuries, emotional breakdown and her traumatic response to the violence. The children also may be used and manipulated by the abuser to hurt their mother.
In a family where violence is the norm, children are at high risk of being caught in the middle of an assault by accident or because the abuser directly intends it and even infants can be injured if being held by their mothers when the abuser strikes out. Children may be hurt if struck by a weapon or a thrown object and older children are frequently assaulted when they intervene to defend or protect their mothers. Children from such a families may be neglected by their parents or guardians their parents or guardians are busy with domestic violence. The neglected children are at high risk of gang and drugs users recruit as their welfare is being neglected.
Generally, domestic violence often occurs when the abuser believes that abuse is an entitlement, acceptable, justified, or unlikely to be reported and punished by law or laws that addresses domestic violence are not in place. It may produce an intergenerational cycle of abuse in children and other family members, who may feel that such violence is acceptable or condoned. Many people do not recognize themselves as abusers or victims because they may consider their experiences as family conflicts that got out of control. Domestic violence often happens in the context of forced or child marriage. Here tensions and cycle of an act may rise and domestic violence is committed. Though this may be followed by a period of reconciliation and calm, victims of domestic violence may be trapped in domestic violent situations through isolation, power and control, traumatic bonding to the abuser, cultural acceptance, lack of financial resources, fear, shame, or to protect children. Victims of domestic violence may be trapped in domestic violent situations through isolation, power and control, traumatic bonding to the abuser, cultural acceptance, lack of financial resources, fear, shame, or to protect children. As a result of abuse, victims may experience physical disabilities, deregulated aggression, chronic health problems, mental illness, limited finances, and poor ability to create healthy relationships. Children from a household with violence often show psychological problems from an early age, such as avoidance, hyper vigilance to threats, and deregulated aggression which may contribute to vicarious traumatisation.
Domestic violence may trigger poor concentration in school of children from families with family abuse. A child from a family from a family with family violence (DV) is likely to be disobedient either at home or at school is such is the pattern of such act. A child from a family with DV is likely to come to school late and leaves school early than other children and may lack school essential items like books, pens/pencils and uniforms and is likely to go to school without eating breakfast and on return home finds no food. His/her tuitions are either paid, completely not or partially paid and this may trigger the school administration to send them home. This may lead to school dropout and early child marriage. The child may also lack personal hygiene with his clothes dirty including his/her school uniform, fingernails not streamed and that exposes the child to cholera. A family busy in DV has no time to teach their children the simple act and importance of washing hands before eating even. Children from a DV family lacks almost everything as their parents or guardians a busy in their violent acts. Children from a DV family are likely to grow up with their uncles.
Parents experiencing abuse in their relationships have no time of supervising their children whether they go to school early or late – return home early. They as well have less or no time to check their children’s books to see whether their children are taking notes in class, doing exercise or doing none of the above when at school. A family with DV is likely to have one meal a day as the father is busy drinking alcohol or spending time and money on odds and endings and yes, alcohol, drugs addiction and abuse is the primary cause of DV. Financial dependency and gap between the husband and the wife especially when the male is the daily bread winner at home is likely to trigger the victim(s) to keep staying with their abusers and even not reporting the act to any relevant legal authorities.
However, regardless of the sex of the abusers, it’s evident that abusive partners also batter their children. In a situation where the mother is assaulted by the father, daughters are exposed to high risk of sexual abuse. A male/fathers’ violent act against a child is more severe especially physically inflicted injuries and most of the fatalities against a child at home is normally attributed to fathers.
A child from a family with domestic violence may suffer aggression, hyperactivity, neglect, nightmares, withdrawal, low self-esteem, showing no emotion (‘spaced out’), always on edge, wary, fantasies about normal home life, pessimism about the future and physical symptoms, depression, anxiety, withdrawal, abuse of parents trying to protect their mother, poorly developed communication skills, parent-child conflict, child marriage or a relationship early to escape the abuse at home, embarrassed about family, shame, eating disorders, low academic achievement, dropping out from school, early pregnancy as for girls, staying away from home, leaving home early, running away from home, feeling isolated from others, violent outbursts, alcohol and substance abuse, difficulty communicating feelings, nightmares, experiencing violence in their own dating relationships, physical injuries when they try to intervene to protect mother, suicide and we can see that the list is on and on.
As an innocent child and a victim of DV, I grew up in this kind of family. The Trauma, hopelessness and the nightmares caused by the violent culture still haunts me till date, narrates the 27 year old Edisson Wani as he recalls. We mostly go to school hungry. In case of any fight that erupts between our father against our mother we flee home with my siblings as we’re not any different from our father’s eyes. Any day they start fighting we sleep in the bush because if we happen to take shelter in the neighborhood our father goes there and fight the neighbor who gave us shelter and accusing them of harboring rebels. So to avoid implicating our neighbors into any form of violence, we run to the bush and sleep there. Sometimes it rains heavily and becomes cold in the bush, yet there were no sweaters. In the morning we creep home put on our dirty Uniforms and go to school just like that. Sometimes I sleep in class while the teacher is teaching in the class because we only never had a sleep but a good sleep covered with blanket when it’s cold. Sometimes we arrive earlier than our mother from bush where we sleep since everyone finds his/her own safe way out when fight erupts. The fight often happens in the evening and at night when the father is drunk after drinking alcohol. While in class when teacher is teaching, sometimes you find your mind drawn to some of the DV incident that occurred sometime back, then the anger that runs in your veins, the hate ha! Seeing your dad beating or assaulting your mother before you and you can’t help because you’re small & powerless One day told my dad that if I grew up I was going to join the army shoot him. There’re a lot to tell you my dear friend Lisok James but I can’t share any much as far now because it makes my memories more terrible, the violent incidents that I suffered. Thank you!
We Children from abusive family generally become violent whether at home or at school and we don’t blame ourselves as the saying goes “CHARITY BEGINGS AT HOME” and indeed violence started at home. Since then I don’t have the right word(s) to describe the damages caused by domestic violence to an innocent child(ren) from a domestic violent home but as a victim, if there’s is anything that I know about DV then it is “LIFETIME HOPELESSNESS & TRAUMA.” We children from such families are not any different from other child(ren) but we lack encouragement and love and perhaps most of you understands the impact of love and encouragement to the little ones. Phrases like, “YES U CAN JUNIOR.” That means a lot for Children’s upbringing and healthy growth because that reduces their negative attitudes of facing & approaching life. But Parents from such families involve in domestic violence got no time for encouraging their children since they’re busy with violence at Home.
The author is a resident of Juba. He can be reached via E-mail: email@example.com or call mobile number:+211 926 069 577