Broken homes: Children that grow up around domestic violence repeat the behavior

By Olivia Neeley

October 11, 2009 /

Sunshine, pets and smiling stick figures represent what some Cleveland County children believe is a safe home free of domestic violence.

A mural displayed recently in uptown Shelby was inspired by three drawings from children whose mother’s fled a domestic violence situation. 

The drawings prompted the Abuse Prevention Council to show the public a child’s view to kick off October as Domestic Violence Awareness month. 

 “They all came up with, more or less, the same thing,” said Donna Sellers, operations manager for both the men’s and women’s shelters. “It’s a children’s view …of a picture perfect home.” 

Children have a vision of what they believe is a safe home, said Executive Director of Abuse Prevention Council Cathy Robertson. Children have imaginations, are smart and know what feels good, she added. 

  Volunteers with APC recently distributed domestic violence awareness brochures and tabletop information to area restaurants in Shelby. 

“This year we wanted to focus on victims,” Robertson said. “We want people to know that we are here and provide services for victims.” 

Every four houses 

If you count down four houses in your neighborhood, there is likely someone living there who is experiencing a domestic violence situation, said APC’s Vice Chairwoman Patti Ellis McMurry. 

    “They might go out to the mailbox and smile but things are going on in the home,” McMurry said. “They are invested in making things look normal.” 

According to the National Network to End Domestic Violence, nearly one in every four women are beaten or raped by a partner during their lifetime. 

“The time a woman leaves the home is the most dangerous situation,” Robertson said. “It’s common for victims of domestic violence to go back to the batterer.” 

Women are responding to years of someone destroying their self-esteem and it can be hard emotionally and economically to stay gone, she said. 

Robertson encourages any woman or man who has or is experiencing domestic violence to contact the APC for free counseling. 

“When communities are safe and women are empowered by their communities they are more likely to be able to leave a domestic violence situation, she said. “Women need to know they have options.” 

Watching abuse 

More than 15 million children are exposed to domestic violence every year, according to NNEDV. 

“When a mother is abused very often the children are abused too,” Robertson said, noting that it’s considered child abuse those adults who let their children be exposed to domestic violence. 

Robertson said boys who exposed to those situations are more likely to repeat that behavior when they become adults. 

 According to NNEVD, children exposed to violence are more likely to attempt suicide, abuse drugs and alcohol, run away from home, engage in teenage prostitution and commit sexual assault crimes. 

 “It’s a cycle of violence,” Robertson said. 

Here to help 

 The APC offers free counseling to anyone who has experienced or is currently going through a domestic situation. Services are state funded. 

“They need to know they have options,” Robertson said. “We want people to know we are here and provide services to victims.”


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