Domestic violence and the hidden victims

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Miller, who is also a social worker, had worked on cases in which he had witnessed babies barely weeks old falling into a state of “frozen watchfulness” as a result of exposure to violence between its parents.

“They only have to hear the voice of the perpetrator and they’re in this dissociative state. Children and very young babies can sense the fear in their parents. They can smell fear, they can sense it, literally, through skin contact,” he said.

The early years of a child’s life, in particular the ages of 0-4, are critical periods for brain development. Professor Newman remarked that ‘exposing children to fear and violence between birth to four years of age – whether direct or indirect – has lasting effects on their psychological development’. Trauma experienced during this window of time may affect a child’s ability to learn, as well as their memory and concentration. They can also suffer PTSD, experiencing flashbacks which are triggered by their external environment. Statistics have indicated that children who spend their early years in abusive environments are much more likely to have problems with socialisation. They may either withdraw internally or act out inappropriately. Figures have also shown that, due to their vulnerability, they may be disproportionately targeted for child abuse by others, particularly sadly, as this role is perversely familiar. As they mature such children are also much more likely to become involved in dysfunctional or exploitative relationships. They can remain in the familiar role of victim or through defensive processes (for example, identification with the aggressor) become the abuser.

In the UK, one woman in four (and one man in six) will be a victim of domestic violence during their lifetime, according to recent estimates. Two women a week are killed by a current or former male partner. I have included the following information from the NHS Choices website which has some helpful information if you’re unsure about what domestic violence is and what can be done about it.

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