The child as a victim of domestic violence By Vasiliki V. Pappa*
The issue of domestic violence is not a "family issue". It's a serious social issue that touches everyone, since it constitutes the violation of human rights. It is a phenomenon with awful consequences either on an individual or on a social level. Thousands of children are daily abused in front of our eyes, behind the closed doors of the troubled families. It is tragic for someone to think the huge and irreparable harm that is caused in the fragile and malleable child's world.
These children "learn" to live in fear, they feel pain, despair and they are going through a traumatic experience that will be engraved in their souls and mark their later life forever.
All the studies have showed that the 1/3 of the children that taste the domestic violence either directly by being victims by themselves or indirectly by watching the violence to be implied on their mother, will be victims in their lives or they will be "de- sensitized" and will consider violence as a normal situation.
Children raised under such circumstances have a multitude of problems either during their childhood as well as during their adulthood. They face phychosomatic and other types of disorders starting from urinating during sleep till suicide attempts. The most common is delinquency and aggressiveness.
When parents are aggressive, they basically teach their children their aggressiveness. Moreover, the disturbed relationship among the parents has the consequence the children to become aggressive through their defensive mechanism. The child is identified with the parent with the aggressive behavior, because if the child gets into the other's position, then it feels doomed to be afraid.
Aggressive behavior starts from the family, but extends to school as well as to the social environment with self-destructive tendencies. It is as if they were trained to be hurt and to hurt others.
It has been noticed that when the psycho-emotional bond with the mother is strong, that acts protectively. On the contrary, if the mother is unable to respond to her parental role due to her own abuse, her child's vulnerability is enhanced.
Educators and pastors that are frequently in contact with children, is very important to show compassion in such cases and not to remain distant. They own to play a determinative role in child's protection. Tolerance is connivance. Being distant and isolated, these are traits that depict the first symptom of danger.
Their main purpose is to gain children's trust by offering them love, affection and support. The main goal is imposed to be the child's protection from being abused for one more time and the improvement of the family environment. As early as 2006, a law (N 3500/2006, Article 23) was adopted in which: "an educator who, in performing his / her duties, finds or is informed that a child has suffered from a crime of domestic violence, must inform the School's Headmaster who then will inform the relevant public prosecutor". Nonetheless a lot of educators hesitate to proceed to complaints and accusations, for fear that their suspicions may be wrong and that the signs they see may be symptomatic or may have been caused accidentally.
In case that there are indications or there is a suspicion that a child suffers from domestic violence, they are obliged to use directly the SOS line 1056, where complaints - even anonymously - are accepted and referred to the Prosecuting Authorities that are in charge.
In every case, there are the social services that can intervene. These children need a safe environment. If the environment where the child is taken care is not the appropriate one, the treatment won't work. In case of leaving the family, it is advisable to find a foster family as a long stay in a hospital or institution can lead to institutionalization.
We all have to get to the heart of the problem, explain it, show it to the general public and get it out of the darkness of shame and margin. Such behaviors are unacceptable from wherever they come from and derive from a lack of respect for the child who is the image of God and even the most precious because it expresses the innocence and purity of the soul that we all ought to obtain at the instigation of Christ in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
Translation in English by Aliki Naka
* Vasiliki V. Pappa is
a Theologian - Sociologist hοlder of three Masters on Church History, Christian Ethics and Sociology of