Why some people abuse their partners is a question that many people have researched. There are many factors that contribute to domestic violence, but the main factor that is consistent throughout research is the issue of power and control. Research shows that by abusing other people, batterers feel more powerful and more in control (NCAD, 2007a). The Power and Control Wheel is a tool that was developed by the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project to explain the overall pattern of abusive behaviors that are used by a batterer to establish and maintain control over his partner. The patterns of abuse in the Power and Control Wheel consist of coercion, threats, intimidation, emotional abuse, isolation, minimizing, denying, blaming, using children, economic abuse, and male privilege (National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence [NCDSV], 2006).
There are a number of other reasons that contribute to domestic violence, which include family dysfunction, inadequate communication skills, stress, and chemical dependency. Batterers often feel they are entitled to the control that they gain over their victim. Battering allows the abuser to get their needs met quickly and completely (Mid-Valley Women’s Crisis Service [MVWCS], 2007). Also, psychological predisposition has shown to affect whether a person is violent towards 6 another person. Research shows that violence can be attributed as a learned behavior. Studies show that if a child experiences domestic violence they are twice as likely to abuse their own partners (NCAD, 2007a).
In addition to these factors, some believe that due to society’s structure, men often abuse women more. The term male privilege refers to the way culture accepts the principles and privilege of male dominance, which contributes to the tolerance of violence against women (Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence [ACADV], 2007). Alcohol and other chemical substances may also contribute to violent behavior. A person under the influence may be less likely to control his or her violent impulse. While these issues are often associated with the abuse of women, they are not the cause, nor will the removal of these factors mitigate or end the problem of domestic violence. Abusers adopt and maintain abusive behavior patterns because these patterns allow them to gain and maintain control over another person. No matter what factors contribute to the domestic violence, the batterer chooses to use violence. Batterers also do not typically suffer adverse consequences as a result of these behaviors (NCAD, 2007a).
Due to male privilege, violence against women has not been treated as a real crime in our society. Intimate partner violence in the United States rarely has consequences of incarceration, fines, or even being ostracized by their communities, which can lead to an increase and acceptance of domestic violence. Abusers come from different backgrounds, cultures, races, and religions. Nevertheless, there are some characteristics that may be used to define the general profile of an abuser. Abusers objectify women, are unable to see them as people, but rather view them as property or sexual objects (NCAD, 2007a). Abusers typically have low self-esteem and feel powerless and inadequate, despite their successes they may have achieved in life. Abusers often do not take responsibility for their actions, often blaming their behavior on outside circumstances (MVWCS, 2007). Their behavior may be attributed to stress, their partner’s behavior, or chemical dependency. Abusers are often charming, outgoing, and friendly between violent episodes and yet may be extremely jealous, possessive, ill-tempered, unpredictable, cruel to family pets, and verbally abusive (NCAD,2007a). These factors and behaviors that contribute to domestic violence have many affects on women, children, and our society as a whole.
A study conducted by Buckley, Holt, and Whelan (2007) showed that intimate violence is an all-encompassing experience, which affects all aspects of family life for those directly or indirectly involved. The Study showed that children who live in households where their mothers experience domestic violence are significantly affected and experience considerable distress. Domestic violence affects children’s emotional and mental health, their future relationships as well as their physical safety. Many children experience a loss in self-confidence and self-esteem, and have a feeling that they are “different” (Buckley et al.). The literature supports that children do not have to witness the violence directly in order to be aware of its happenings and to be affected negatively (Buckley et al.), in fact approximately 90% of children are aware of the domestic violence occurring in their homes (Sojourn, 2008). The abusive home environment these children are growing up in severely jeopardizes their developmental progress which leads to a direct affect on their adulthood and can contribute to the cycle of adversity and violence (Buckley et al.).
Children who are exposed to domestic violence in their homes often have a similar response as children who have been directly physically abused. These responses could be a combination of physical, emotional, behavioral or social expressions that could intensely affect the child throughout life and into adulthood (Kolar & Davey, 2007). These children often exhibit behaviors which include hyper vigilance and hypersensitivity, low self-esteem, repressed or overt anger and resentment, guilt and self-blame, developmental regression, impaired social relationships, and even suicidal thoughts (Rogers, 2007). In addition, this domestic violence exposure could even cause psychological disorders such as anxiety, depression, and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These responses could also vary depending on the age of the child exposed. Younger school-age children could isolate themselves from other children and exhibit regressive behaviors due to their internalized responses to domestic violence exposure, while older children could respond with risky behaviors such as sexual promiscuity and substance abuse (Kolar & Davey).
Literature has also shown children witnessing domestic violence are nearly three times as likely to be involved in physical aggression at school (Buckley et al., 2007). Statistics show that boys who witness domestic violence in their home are twice as likely to abuse their own partners and children later on in life (NCAD, 2007a). These children develop warped attitudes about violence and may learn it is acceptable to use violence as a means of conflict resolution and that violence enhances their self-image (Rogers, 2007). In order to decrease this physical aggression and generational repetition of domestic violence, the development of conflict resolution skills would be crucial to help deal with these children’s attitudes and beliefs about violence against others, gender roles and family violence.
Additionally, the constant concentration on survival can delay development for these children as well as stifle their freedom to explore and experiment (Kolar & Davey, 2007). Some children may also develop learning difficulties and find a need for individual and special intervention, thus affecting their educational attainment (Buckley et al., 2007). Increasing positive coping skills would help decrease not only physical aggression, but also improve other areas that may be affected by negative coping skills and learned aggressive behavior. This change would then decrease the cycle of violence in the future generation.
As mentioned earlier, childhood maltreatment is a risk factor for and is associated with increased incidences of PTSD, depression, suicide, substance abuse, and other risky behaviors (Cohen, Mannarino, Murray, & Igleman, 2006). Recently PTSD has gained popularity and exposure as a potential precursor to children who are exposed to interpersonal violence. PTSD examples among children have expanded recently to include more normal experiences that can cause injury, death or threaten the well being of the child or the child’s loved one. These examples expanded from a more narrow view of PTSD among children, which was characterized by experiences of sudden, unexpected catastrophic events such as natural disasters (Margolin & Vickerman, 2007).
PTSD symptoms are more likely to develop when a person, not an act of nature, causes the traumatic event, when that person is a trusted individual, and when the victim is a loved-one (Margolin & Vickerman, 2007). In addition to the interpersonal relationship, there are several factors affecting the development of PTSD. Severity of violence exposure, accumulation of multiple stressors, functioning of the non-offending caregiver and the child’s perception of the stressor are all significant variables. Children and adolescents have their own age-specific ways of registering post traumatic distress, which include difficulty falling asleep, oppositional acting-out behavior, and obsession with trauma details (Margolin & Vickerman).
Exposure to domestic violence falls into the category of complex traumas, which is a relatively recent conceptualization of long-standing, repeating, traumatic events. Complex trauma refers to “the experience of multiple, chronic, and prolonged, developmentally adverse traumatic events, most often of an interpersonal nature and early life onset” (Margolin & Vickerman, 2007, p. 616). Rossman and Ho (2000) described children’s experience with serious forms of domestic violence as a constant war zone of un-expected attacks and sometimes-predictable aggression. This leaves the children with a sense of danger and uncertainty. A summary of studies conducted by Rossman, Hughes, and Rosenberg (2000) reported that 13% to 50% of youth exposed to domestic violence qualify for diagnosis of PTSD.
In a study by Humphreys, Thiara, Skamballis, and Mullender (2006), it was shown that violence experienced in the home might influence the parent-child relationship. A mother being insulted and criticized in front of her children may undermine the relationship between her and her children. There is also evidence that suggests domestic violence can negatively affect parenting skills. Reports of depression, fear, and exhaustion made parenting more difficult when experiencing domestic violence, thus directly affecting the children. In some instances, domestic violence had a negative impact on a woman’s ability to develop authority and control over her children (Humphreys et al.). Moreover the mother may not be able to offer security if she is threatened or victimized. Victims of domestic violence often experience PTSD and thus tend to be quicker and more impulsive in their actions toward their children and also tend to underestimate their children’s distress. For these reasons, domestic violence has the unfortunate consequence of undermining parents as protectors and sources of support (Margolin & Vickerman, 2007).
A study by McGee (2000) indicated that less than one third of children had talked about the violence and the abuse that occurred in the home with their mothers. Rogers (2007) stated that by not talking about the abuse the parents are unknowingly creating a culture of silence. Mothers often try to protect their children from the trauma they experienced by denying and minimizing the severity of the abuse, which unintentionally sends the message that children cannot or should not talk about what they have seen or heard. This may also lead to confusion for the child by changing the child’s view of the situation. Children need an outlet to discuss the incident, because without such an outlet, children may draw their own conclusions, which can often include self-blame or blame of the mother, which often is exactly what mothers are trying to avoid in the first place. Thus when treating children who have experienced domestic violence, one should include the mother in treatment to ensure a more positive mother-child relationship and improve positive and open communication (Rogers).
Violence in the home cannot only affect the mother-child relationship, but it is also a significant impact on the abuser-child relationship. The abuser-child relationship is often complicated with the children seeing the abuser in both positive and negative terms. Research shows that children often experience feelings of divided loyalties and feel caught in the middle between their parents (Buckley et al., 2007). According to research conducted by Margolin and Vickerman (2007), studies showed “the child is likely to respond with a disorganized attachment when the parent simultaneously is the source of safety and the source of danger” (p. 615). Domestic violence can sometimes communicate a message to the child of disregard. Sometimes children often wonder how the abuser can hurt their mother and destroy their family if they care about them. In addition, children’s self-worth may diminish due to their perceptions that they should have tried to protect the victim or stop the violence but failed to do so (Margolin & Vickerman). Witnessing violence in the home can sometimes lead to disruption of a child’s normal relationship to her or his parents. Children experience feelings of confusions and frustrations by the abuser’s behavior and often feel powerless and angry at not being able to stop the incidents, which can lead to being consumed by fear. These children can also develop a distorted concept of power and control. They may feel that they have the power to control the batterer’s behaviors, which in turn often leads to them blaming themselves or seeing themselves as the reason the abuser became angry. Conversely, they can also start to think that other people control how they behave (Rogers, 2007).
The need for children to relate and communicate to other children going through a domestic violence experience was a desire that Buckley et al. (2007) found in their study. In the study, children felt the need to be reassured that they were not alone and not different from everyone else. The study also showed that they children felt it would have been a very valuable experience to be able to share their feelings with someone, whether that was a teacher, a peer, or someone in a formal helping capacity. Some of the participants also felt that it would be useful to have someone to talk to both themselves and their mothers together (Buckley et al.). In a study conducted by Humphreys and Stanley (2006), children found the experience of being in a domestic violence shelter to be the most helpful when dealing with the affects of domestic violence beyond their family and friends. The study found that children might show a remarkable recovery once they are in a shelter, in terms of an increase in self-esteem and general adjustment (Humphreys & Stanley).
Many youth who experience domestic violence are “invisible” victims because the violence exposure is not known to anyone outside the family. Failing to acknowledge that this exposure to violence is a serious distress in the lives of these children can lead to misdiagnoses and misguided treatment plans (Margolin & Vickerman, 2007).
Research shows that an estimated 3.3 to 10 million children a year are at risk for witnessing or being exposed to domestic violence (Bragg, 2003). Californians alone placed around 20,000 calls to the National Domestic Violence Hotline in 2006 and California law enforcement received 176,299 domestic violence-related calls in the same year (NCAD, 2007b). On September 25, 2007, the National Census of Domestic Violence Services surveyed 61% of identified domestic violence programs in California. The survey reported that in a 24-hour period there were 3,049 victims served in California. In addition 1,505 of those victims found refuge in shelters or transitional housing provided by local domestic violence programs. It was also reported that 1,544 adults and children received non-residential services, including individual counseling, legal advocacy, and children’s support groups (National Network to End Domestic Violence [NNEDV], 2008). In the past decade there has been an increased awareness and concern about the welfare of children living with domestic violence. This recognition has fueled a move towards more preventive work with general populations of children to help reduce some of the negative consequences that can occur from exposure to domestic violence.
Some children experience stressors in early childhood that can have a negative effect on their development. Early childhood is a unique developmental period that serves as a foundation for that child’s behavior, well being, and success late in life. Early childhood interventions can be described as formal attempts by outside agents to help the family maintain or improve the quality of life of the children; starting with the prenatal period and continuing though the first grade (Karoly et al., 1998). There have been numerous studies that have documented a range of potential benefits of early intervention for children and their families. These benefits have shown to span the domains of cognitive and behavioral outcomes, educational attainment, economic resources, and health. In addition to improving childhood development, early childhood intervention programs are shown to improve maternal well-being as well (Karoly etal.).
The impact of domestic violence on children at different developmental stages shows the broad range of ways in which children react to their environments. A study by Humphreys and Stanley (2006) indicated that exposure to domestic violence can negatively interfere with the accomplishment of developmental task at any age, but early exposure may create more severe disruptions by affecting the subsequent chain of developmental tasks. In addition, children of pre-school age tend to show the most behavioral disturbance and are particularly vulnerable to blaming themselves for adult anger (Humphreys & Stanley).
In summary, early intervention programs have shown positive benefits in helping children who have experienced trauma in their life. Research has shown that for high-risk children, early intervention may lower the chance that they will become chronic or violent criminals or improve their chances of educational attainment and may raise the likelihood that they achieve economic self-sufficiency. In addition to improving the quality of children’s well being and achievement, early childhood intervention may improve the quality of life for the mothers of these children as well. These include such benefits as increased employment and reducing drug dependency (Karoly et al., 1998).
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There are many varied treatment modalities developed for children exposed to family violence. Treatments can consist of individual, group, family or school therapy. Individual treatment has benefits because therapists and counselors can pay attention to individualized traumatic cues, distorted thoughts, and behavioral interactions that the client displays. Group treatments can target general beliefs and attitudes about violence, reactions to violence, and social problem-solving skills. Family treatment helps the mother child relationship by improving communication. Despite variability in treatment modalities there is considerable consensus across the clinical literature and empirically tested treatments on interventions and strategies for children who have experienced and are affected by family violence (Vickerman & Margolin, 2007).
Trauma-focused treatments are one modality of treatment that professionals use when treating children who are exposed and affected by domestic violence. Trauma-focused treatments are predominantly based on cognitive behavioral models, which aim to optimize adaptive functioning in youth. These types of interventions are comprised of one or more techniques such as trauma re-exposure, play-therapy, violence education and cognitive restructuring, parent training, emotion expression and regulation, social problem solving, and safety planning (Vickerman & Margolin, 2007). Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) was originally developed for sexually abused children, but after September 11, 2001, it was tested with multiple traumatized children. Research has shown that TF-CBT has been superior to other treatments in improving PTSD and depressive symptoms and is currently being evaluated for the treatment of children who have experienced domestic violence (Cohen et al., 2006, p. 739).
The first trauma-focused intervention that will be reviewed is re-exposure intervention. Vickerman and Margolin (2007) explain that re-exposure intervention has three main goals, which consist of separating the thoughts, cues, and other reminders surrounding the traumatic event to help the client from becoming overwhelmed and incapacitated with negative emotions; to make sense of the reactions during and following the traumatic event, and to discuss and rehearse alternative responses. The repeating and ongoing nature of violence in the home makes it important to use re-exposure techniques to prepare youth for coping with future episodes. The objective of the technique is to assist youth in developing a personal story with new strategies of coping with the violence, or responding even to less dangerous but still threatening anger and conflict-related cues. One intervention that is commonly used in re-exposure therapy is the trauma interview, which allows the child to disclose and review details of the traumatic event in a safe, accepting environment where the danger cannot reoccur (Vickerman & Margolin).
Vickerman and Margolin (2007) also discuss how cognitive restructuring is another beneficial intervention that is used to change awareness about the child’s aggression and to help them gain control over the re-experiencing of symptoms. Cognitive restructuring interventions have several goals in common with re-exposure, such as trying to get clients to think about the violence from a new perspective and developing different coping strategies to respond to violence. This intervention is often conducted in group settings to allow children to learn from one another. This process helps children who have experienced similar exposures to violence to normalize their seemingly out-of-control symptoms that have developed due to the exposure. By allowing children to tell their stories of abuse, the children receive support and validation from the other group members and they come to realize that they are not alone in living with the violence. Group leaders also help children develop vocabularies to describe violent events, which allows them to tell their story in a more comprehensive way. In addition to helping the children normalize, and develop a vocabulary to describe the events, cognitive restructuring helps to undo the lessons learned from growing up in a violent home; specifically, messages that aggression is an acceptable way to deal with conflict (Vickerman & Margolin).
One intervention that is widely used by many professionals when working with children is art therapy (American Art Therapy Association [AATA], 2009). Art therapy is used to help children with many behaviors and emotions that they may display. Since some children who have been exposed to domestic violence may not have the skills to verbalize what they are feeling, drawing can be an effective tool for children who have witnessed domestic violence because it allows them to validate what they have seen (Rogers, 2007). Art therapy is shown to help individual with conflict resolution, develop interpersonal skills, manager their behavior, reduce stress, and increase selfesteem. In addition, art therapy is often used with children who suffer from anxiety, depressions and other mental and emotional disorders (AATA). Art therapy also allows treatment providers to see the child’s interpretation of the situation because an incident of domestic violence can look very different to a child than it does to other 19 adults or treatment providers. Art can show treatment providers how children remember incidents. Often, one clear detail or image stands out in the child’s mind amidst the chaos. In essence, these details have been etched into the child’s mind and stand out nearly as sharply as the incident itself. Art is shown to be an effective and easy way for children who have experienced violence to convey their experiences, which helps to define their own emotional worlds. Many children find it easier to put their feelings into pictures rather than to express them out loud, and drawing pictures allows these children the freedom from judgment and pressure (Rogers).
Research has shown that involving the parents and children together in the therapeutic intervention after experiencing domestic violence is very effective, as domestic violence is thought to be an attack on the relationship between mothers and their children (Humphreys et al., 2006). Involving parents in the therapeutic treatment of the children not only reinforces the need for the risk of violence exposure to be reduced, but also helps give the parent a role in understanding and furthering the child’s intervention efforts (Vickerman & Margolin, 2007). Overall, by involving the parent into interventions employed with the child, the parent-child relationship will improve and positive open communication will be developed.
In addition to these intervention and treatment modalities Vickerman and Margolins’ (2007) research has shown that using and developing techniques such as Emotion Recognition and Expression techniques social problem solving and social interaction skills, and safety planning is beneficial to children exposed to interfamily violence. Their study showed that attending to and expressing one’s own emotions can lead to improved emotional regulation. The Emotion Recognition and Expression technique helps children develop empathy by recognizing emotions in others. The technique helps children learn to interrupt anxiety, giving them a sense of control over unpleasant emotions. By identifying connections between emotions, automatic thoughts and behaviors, children are able to respond in a more intentional manner to confusing or stressful situations (Vickerman & Margolin).
Social problem solving and social interaction skills teach children new ways of interacting and working out conflicts. These skills are essential for children who have been exposed to domestic violence since research shows these children are more likely to develop aggressive behavior and have poor anger management and problem solving skills than their peers who have not been exposed to violence. These techniques, when used with school-age children, emphasize how to open conversations, take turns, listen to one another, be polite, and use alternatives to aggressive or passive behaviors for conflict resolution (Vickerman & Margolin, 2007).
In addition to the various treatment modalities that can be used with children who have been exposed to domestic violence, safety planning must be a primary and continuing concern when working with these children. Safety planning is a mechanism to be put into place whenever a family situation involves a perceived threat of danger (Kolar & Davey, 2007). When teaching children about safety plans it is important to the children that distinctions are made between not being responsible for the violence, but being responsible for acting to protect one’s own safety. Safety plans help children anticipate the cues of dangerous situations at home or elsewhere and identifying 21 people who can help (Vickerman & Margolin, 2007). A safety plan should be age appropriate, simple and realistic; allowing the child and other involved family members to put into place on short notice and without complicated thought or actions. Specific strategies for the child, which helps to empower the child to identify safety issues and may help to reduce the child’s anxiety or fears, should be included (Kolar & Davey). The message that should be consistent to the children when teaching them the safety plan should be that they should always disclose the situation that poses a danger to themselves or others (Vickerman & Margolin).
There are several existing domestic violence programs aimed to help children exposed to violence. Each program employs different theories and interventions to help reduce the negative consequences of domestic violence.
Vickerman and Margolin (2007) examined the group designed by GrahamBermann and colleagues for school-aged children (The Kids’ Club) and preschool children (The Preschool Kids’ Club) that have been exposed to partner violence. The groups that were developed for these children are psycho educational and help children recover from traumatic exposure to intimate partner aggression. The goals of these groups aim to prevent future problems through learning about and discussing feelings and concerns related to violence, increasing coping skills and resilience and addressing assumptions and cognitions about violence in intimate relationships. An efficacy study of the group interventions was conducted and compared groups of children only, mothers and children, and wait list control groups. The study revealed that after receiving the program interventions, children in both treatment conditions (children only, and mothers and children) received fewer PTSD diagnoses after treatment than did control group children. In addition, the study revealed that only the mothers and children treatment showed significant improvement in other outcomes (externalizing behaviors and violence attitudes) compared to the wait-list control (Vickerman & Margolin).
Rogers (2007) explored a children’s domestic violence program created by the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), which uses a unique model to address the needs of children who have witnessed domestic violence. The program lasts 10 weeks, in which the children meet weekly with a domestic violence specialist and learn about safety planning and conflict resolution. Children are encouraged to vocalize their experiences of domestic violence, which is often the first time for many of the children and discuss them with trained staff. The staff makes sure the message that is received by the children is that they are not at fault for what they have seen (Rogers).
Rogers (2007) explained that the program also employs many interventions. Some of the interventions used in the program by the trained staff are art therapy, roleplaying and the use of empathic listening. The program creates a safe, non-threatening environment, and also helps the children to create safety plans in a developmentally appropriate manner. In addition to employing these interventions at their children’s domestic violence program, the staff members are aware that children will most likely have future contact with the batterer, especially if he is their father. Therefore, the program’s curriculum teaches children skills so that they will be able to handle the abusers past, present and future behaviors with the least amount of damage to themselves. The children’s domestic violence program focuses on helping the 23 children to write out safety plans and helps them rewrite their plans if locations or situations change or if the children attempted to follow it and was unsuccessful. In addition, staff also acts out safety plans with children so that they are comfortable with using them, and so that they can remember them during stressful or frightening situations (Rogers).
The YWCA children’s domestic violence program operates on an individual level with each child. Advocates of the program believe that having the ability to be flexible with each child helps to determine what would best serve the individual child (Rogers, 2007). According to Dr. Jeffrey Edleson, an advocate for the YWCA program, an essential component when working with children affected by domestic violence is to consider each child’s unique situation. Dr. Edleson stated that better results are seen when they work with both the children and their mothers and believe that the program has been successful because it offers individualized, advocacy-based counseling in the children’s homes (Rogers). Rogers (2007) stated that children benefit more if advocates work from the perspective of the children and to have the flexibility to mold the curriculum to fit their individual needs.
In 2000, the Federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention devised a framework to guide agencies, advocates, and individuals involved with helping children that had been affected by violence. They believe that these principles can help us build safe places within our community for victims of violence and help to respond more effectively and efficiently to victims. These principles include all advocates working together; beginning intervention early; thinking developmentally; providing safety for children by helping their mothers; helping enforce the law; making adequate resources available, working from a sound knowledge base, and creating a culture of nonviolence (Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention [OJJDP], 2000).
The literature has shown that domestic violence affects over one million women each year (NCAD, 2007a) and an estimated 3.3 to 10 million children a year are at risk for witnessing or being exposed to domestic violence (Brag, 2003). Research shows that children who have experienced domestic violence often exhibit a combination of responses such as physical, emotional, behavioral or social expressions (Kolar & Davey, 2007). The research showed that these children suffer from anger and aggression, often have poor coping skills, have low self-esteem, which could stem from depression, self-blame, or the feeling of being “different,” and often have difficult relationships with their parents due to the lack of communication and confusion (Buckley et al., 2007).
There were three types of treatments modalities examined in the literature that were beneficial when working with children who have experienced domestic violence. These treatments were trauma-focused treatments, art therapy, and family therapy (Vickerman & Margolin, 2007; Rogers, 2007). The proposed program will also focus on individual, group, and family therapy, but will also put an emphasis on group and family treatment.
The research has shown that children who have experienced domestic violence benefit a great deal from group settings (Buckley et al., 2007). The proposed program will have a number of groups that will be implemented that are consistent with what the literature has shown to be beneficial for this specific population. Groups in the proposed program will consist of an anger management and coping skills group, a trauma recovery group, a ‘mommy and me’ group and a self-esteem group. Each group that is implemented will follow a consistent framework focusing on establishing safety and control for the children.
Individuals who have been chronically exposed to violence have often had little opportunity to process their reactions in an appropriate manner (Greif & Ephros, 2005). These children may feel anxious and fearful and therefore the development of each group will center around making the group a safe place for the children to express their feelings and thoughts and discuss the events that happened. Along with safety and control, the groups will focus on feelings and emotions of the clients. As the literature showed, children who are exposed to domestic violence often face a gamut of emotions ranging from anger, guilt, anxiety, and depression (Rogers, 2007). Group facilitators will help to normalize the individualized client’s feelings and reactions to these events by linking the common themes that the group members express. Also, a focus on the cognitive distortions about their personal responsibility will be a key element in the trauma recovery groups (Greif & Ephros).
The last framework that will be established for these groups will be centered on coping and reintegration. Effective coping strategies to deal with the distressing thoughts and feelings will be essential for recovery. The facilitators of the group will highlight the strengths, resilience, and pre-existing coping strategies that each of these children posses (Greif & Ephros, 2005).
The literature also shows that it is important for children who have been exposed to domestic violence to learn safety techniques and basic education about domestic violence (Kolar & Davey, 2007). Each group will incorporate this knowledge throughout its curriculum by using techniques of art and play therapy as well as already developed workbooks.
The proposed program will also look at existing programs that treat children who have been exposed to domestic violence and use techniques that created a positive outcome. The proposed program intends to work with children in groups as well as children and their mothers in groups, which in the Graham-Bermann program showed to have decreased the PTSD symptoms of the clients (Vickerman & Margolin, 2007). In addition, the proposed program plans to incorporate many of the YWCA’s children program into their curriculum when working with the children. Much of the framework that was established for each group was created by looking at the existing framework of the YWCA’s program in combination with the framework established by the Federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
Children can be extremely resilient, and with support from one or more mentors or advocates, they can find ways to cope. Research shows that with proper intervention and treatment, children who have behavioral or emotional problems from witnessing domestic violence can and do recover (Rogers, 2007). The first issue that needs to be addressed is the lack of available resources. A number of different organizations have taken steps to provide services for people affected by domestic violence, but the programs that focus on the effects on children are limited.
Next to family and friends, children see domestic violence shelters as a viable source of help. Once inside a shelter, children show a large improvement with their self-esteem and adjustment to a new situation. The proposed program aims to educate a younger generation about domestic violence (Humphreys & Stanley, 2006).
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