Domestic violence is a serious and complex issue with many causes. It can take many forms including, destructive acts, hurtful words or actions towards women by partners, family members, acquaintances and strangers. Physical, emotional and sexual abuse, are all forms of abuse. In Canada, spousal abuse is an important issue with devastating effects on the victims, their children and families.

What is domestic violence?

It occurs in all age, racial, socio-economic, educational, occupational, and religious groups.

  • It occurs within intimate relationships.
  • It typically involves repetitive behaviour encompassing different types of abuse.
  • It is a systematic way of maintaining power and control over victims.
  • It is a learned behaviour.
  • It is caused by the perpetrator, not by the victim or the relationship.
  • It is a criminal offence when physical or sexual force, actual or threatened is used.
  • It is experienced more often by women.
  • It results in more severe forms of violence and more serious injuries to female victims than to male victims.
  • It may present increased risk to the victim and children at the time of separation from the abuser.
  • It evokes victim behaviour that is often about survival.

Effects of Domestic Violence in Children

Children who are exposed to an abusive relationship between their parents or other caregivers feel scared, helpless and unsafe. Some children suffer post traumatic stress syndrome, similar to soldiers who have been in war. The following are examples of the physical and emotional effects children may suffer:

  • Having sleep troubles, nightmares, fear of falling asleep
  • Being restless or anxious at bedtime
  • Having headaches, stomach aches, vague aches and pains or complaining of being overly tired.
  • Having severe separation anxiety.
  • Displaying aggressive behaviour and angry feelings
  • Having a very high activity level or constant fidgeting
  • Worrying constantly about possible danger
  • Losing skills learned earlier such as toilet training
  • Withdrawing from friends and activities
  • Withdrawing emotionally
  • Worrying about the safety of loved ones
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Displaying repetitive play about a violent event
  • Using bullying or aggression to control others.

Even infants are affected by abuse in their home. They have no language and therefore cannot talk about it, but the emotional reaction is encoded. These children are more likely to go from being calm and peaceful to a state of rage in a flash. These experiences are not easy to overcome.

It is important to know that not all children who are exposed to family violence will respond the same way. Children, however, who have a strong relationship with a competent, caring, positive parent, who have the benefits of community safe havens and a certain personal resiliency, are more able to overcome a traumatic childhood.

Source: L.L. Bader, R.G. Jaffe, and K.J. Moore, 2001. Understanding the Effects of Domestic Violence: A Trainer’s Manual for Early Childhood Educators. London, Ontario: Centre for Children and Families in the Justice System.

Community Resources

As families struggle with the issue of abuse, it is important to know that there is help available. Indeed, patterns of abuse or violence rarely stop without outside help. There are services in Perth County, like emergency shelters, counselling, and support programs for women, children and men. Other services that can help with housing, finances and legal issues are also available.

For more local supports, go to Information Perth  and search “domestic violence”.

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