Effects of domestic violence are long-lasting

Childhood experiences within violent households create traumatic memories


Roxana Amparo / The Advocate

The Power and Control diagram helps people understand the overall pattern of abusive behaviors and violent behaviors, which are used by a batterer to establish and maintain control over their partner. Often times, one or more violent incidents are accompanied by an array of these other types of abuse.

By Roxana Amparo, Associate Editor

The National Domestic Hotline receives an average of 22,000 calls per month. That is about 264,000 calls a year to report domestic violence.

Domestic violence is violent or aggressive behavior within the home, involving the abuse of a partner while in an intimate relationship.

The psychological, emotional and physical effects domestic violence leave with a victim can result in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), including flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety and uncontrollable thoughts, according to the Joyful Heart Foundation.

It gives victims of domestic violence time to heal open wounds, even though domestic violence is not usually something that only happens once.

It can occur to anyone and anybody has the potential to be an abuser, depending on their upbringing.

Nearly three in 10 women and one in 10 men have experienced physical violence by a partner and report the impact it has caused them, according to statistics from The National Domestic Violence Hotline.

Often times, the abused takes the blame for what is done to them, but effects of trauma varies from person to person. Everyone’s response to stress, age and the frequency and severity of abuse is different.

“We think it is our fault. We think, ‘It’s me, I’m just bad,’” Contra Costa College psychology professor Mary Johnson said. “I was abused emotionally to a degree by men.”

Johnson said people, who have suffered abuse, don’t know how it will affect them at a later time in their life.

“People may not know where they acquired an addiction problem, why they choose being in relationships with the wrong people, why they can’t be successful in their personal life,” she said.

Women predominantly experience domestic violence in their lifetime and Marriage and Family Therapist Gerald B. Chambers said, during his therapy sessions with his group, he has experienced two types of men who batter.

Typically, the first type has a criminal history, they’ve been in gangs, involved in the criminal justice system and likely to have a mental illness.

“These are anti-social men with no empathy. They practice mind over matter: I don’t mind, you don’t matter,” he said.

Chambers said the second type of men he encounters are the type that get into trouble, they don’t have criminal history, no contact with the law but get involved in conflicts.

Dean of Equity and Institutional Effectiveness Mayra Padilla said, “Part of the truth is that if our young men are so in trouble and impacted by the violence they are feeling everyday, sometimes this is a way to get that anger, that rage out. In a way that is easy for them.” 

It’s not just those who carry these characteristics. Sometimes it’s an adult who has experienced trauma.

Chambers works with people who suffer from domestic violence related issues but said he uses people’s relationships to help them improve.

He also analyses the moment a child is brought into the world and the connection it has with its mother.

Attachment theory is a psychological model that tries to describe long-term and short-term interpersonal relationships between humans, a term coined by British psychologist John Bowlby in 1958.

From the moment a child is born, they sleep, cry, poop and repeat.

“Every year, we get some parent who kills the kid because they can’t get their child to stop crying,” Chambers said. “When we try to raise people like reptiles, with no empathy, no care, no nurturing, you start to have problems. That’s attachment theory.”

Having a strong bond helps a child’s brain develop correctly, and it’s essential a child develops a proper attachment to someone they trust, in most cases, their mother.

Factors in the environment also affect brain development, according to livestrong.com.

Padilla said she was 14 years old when she first heard about a severe case of domestic violence.

She said she remembers the day her best friend called her in a panic because her husband, was holding her one-year-old baby outside the window by her leg.

“Her husband wanted her to not go out, throw away her dresses and skirts or he would let go of the baby,” she said. “He nailed her front door with plywood and he left her locked up for three days alone with her baby, no food or water.”

Padilla said her friend was able to escape the threatening situation in her household, but it wasn’t because she ended up leaving, but because he was shot and killed.

Domestic violence affects people of any age.

“When someone you love can have that kind of impact on your life and not see you as a person, it does a lot of damage. Not just to her and her baby, but to the entire community,” Padilla said.

A method of intimidation involves the abuser using children to control a person or conflict.

According to NDH, 30 to 60 percent of perpetrators of intimate partners also abuse children in the household.

CCC sociology professor Brandy Walker said when children witness domestic violence it impacts their development.

“The trauma plays out in many different ways, they repeat the cycle by allowing themselves to be battered or being the batterer,” she said.

Children endure anxiety, depression, academic problem, or develop fear even if they were not directly abused, according to the Joyful Heart Foundation.

Chambers said that people should ask themselves whether they feel safe and have room to be who they are in their relationship. Otherwise, it may be a sign of domestic violence.

Walker named three phases of domestic violence developed by psychologist Lenore Walker in 1979: tension building phase, acute battering episode and honeymoon phase afterward.

Tension builds over money, children or jobs. That’s when the verbal abuse begins.

In this phase, the victim tries to control the situation by giving in or avoiding the abuse, but it will not stop the violence.

This is the point where the physical abuse begins.

When reaching the acute battering episode, the abuser is triggered by external events causing them to act out.

The abuser is unpredictable and can become agitated, leading to abuse.

During the honeymoon stage, the abuser is ashamed of his behavior and tries convincing the abused the behavior will not repeat itself.

The abuser will convince the victim that leaving the relationship is not necessary, allowing the cycle to continue.

“A victim should be aware of the various phases and have a safety plan in the event that domestic violence occurs and they should be ready to leave the situation,” Walker said.

Padilla said, “It’s not just a problem about women and women needing to get out. We stay in those situations because sometimes we don’t see that we have choices or sometimes we are too scared to see that any options exist.”

Having conversations surrounding domestic violence can educate communities before it is too late.