When a child is raised in an environment of domestic violence and abuse, the powerlessness that they experience is nearly all-consuming. This is never more glaring than through their own interactions, choices, and behaviors with other children and adults, as they chronologically mature.
They see their mother/father/sister/brother dehumanized, verbally, without the victim demonstrating any hope of remedy. No matter what, the abuser always seems to win. They see the victim slapped, pinched, punched, shoved, knocked down, and physically brutalized and they learn, by observation, that this is how people express any type of displeasure. The children learn that there is no consistency in behavior and verbal edicts: "I hate a liar," is spoken by the abuser while the abuser engages in insurance fraud, dealing illegal substances, or straight-out lies to others about their own activities. Children witness the submission of the victim to the whims and demands of the abuser and learn that there is no compromise in matters of personal opinion, religious/ritual practices, or even expression of heritage. The children are taught to align their loyalties with tyrants to avoid similar punishment, and they also learn that they can do nothing to stop the abuse. Their sexua| identities are formed and ruined by the sole actions of the abuser when they see that other family victims are raped (yes, there is such a thing as "spousal rape") - women/men are merely objects that can be replaced as easily as a warped plastic container.
Symptoms of children living in abusive environment may include the following:
- unkempt or unrealistic appearances (i.e.: filthy or uber-immaculate)
- inappropriate sexua| references
- isolation from friends, making friends, and/or extended family
- inappropriate sexua| contact
- extreme lethargy and/or lack of enthusiasm
- extreme aggression or bullying
- inappropriate discussion of finances or money
- extreme withdrawal
- "glib" remarks
- constantly medicated either by over-the-counter products, or medically prescribed
- numerous inexplicable injuries, bruises, or lacerations
- inappropriate drawings or "doodlings"
- extreme and constant state of anxiety
- sexual aggression
- extreme gender aggression
- fear of men or women
- excessive apologizing
- extreme prejudice towards men, women, ethnicities, or religions
- abuse of animals
- extreme dishonesty and blaming of others
The above is a short list of the overall effects of child behavior with regard to living in an abusive environment. This is not to say that a child who tells a lie is living in an abusive environment, by any means. But, a child who is incapable of telling the truth when it would be to their own benefit may be learning this behavior at home - adult abuse victims will say/do whatever is necessary to either avoid further abuse, or retribution at the hands of the abuser. Additionally, it is "normal" for a child to experience some level of anxiety during a test or on a trip to the dentist. What is not "normal" is for a child to appear fearful and full of anxiety when engaging in an ordinary, routine task. Yes, a number of the "symptoms" mentioned above can be attributed to poor nutrition or chronic illness, indeed! But, once it's established that there's no organic cause of them, the root causes may lie within the family dynamics.
Children living in abusive environments are groomed to be future abusers, or future victims, without fail. Unless the adult victim exits the abusive environment with the child(ren) and engages in strong counseling medicine for themselves, and their child(ren), the next generation of abusers will not only be more cunning, but more apt to more brutal violence. The next generation of victims will not only be programmed to say/do what abusers demand, but they will also have been taught how to be and remain helpless.
In order to facilitate help to victims of domestic violence and abuse, it is important to hearken back to Stockholm Syndrome. Victims of abuse are conditioned to defend and support their abusers - approaching a suspected (or, known) victim with regard to their situation will only further isolate them from a network of help and safety. For more detailed information on Stockholm Syndrome, please, see:
If you, or someone you know, is living in an abusive environment, the sites below provide priceless information and resources to help victims and families (and, friends) of victims. There is hope, no matter how "hopeless" the situation might seem. When we lose our hope, the abuser wins, forever. We WIN when we save our Self (soul) and attend to the healing of the Self, and children that are also involved.