All children are at risk of abuse. Abuse is not limited to any one socioeconomic, cultural, or religious background.
What is child abuse?
Child abuse refers to physical, emotional, sexual, or neglectful maltreatment of a child. There is a widespread belief that child abuse is not harmful unless you can see physical evidence, e.g., cuts and bruises. However, all forms of child abuse are equally damaging to children. In fact, abuse that does not show evident physical damage is, at times, the abuse that goes on the longest.
What are the impacts of child abuse on young children?
Young children are impacted in many ways by child abuse. The abuse is often prolonged and chronic. This can lead to chronic states of hyper-arousal and sensitized stress response systems. Also, if the abuse occurs within the home, the child may not be able to form secure attachments and may not have a safe person to turn to. Many families live in isolation from their community and extended families. In these situations, young children are at even more risk as their immediate family may make up their entire social system.
What is intimate partner violence (domestic violence)?
Domestic violence refers to abuse that occurs within an intimate relationship. Domestic violence is often referred to as Intimate Partner Violence. Men and women can be either the victim or perpetrator. Domestic violence can happen in any intimate relationship regardless of marital status, length of relationship, living arrangements, or heterosexual or homosexual relationship.
Are young children aware of abuse that happens in their home?
Yes, young children are aware of abuse that happens in their home and can be impacted in several ways. Witnessing intimate partner violence traumatizes a child each time it occurs; therefore, it causes ongoing, long- term exposure to trauma. Some of the impacts of witnessing intimate partner violence depend upon the age of the child. These impacts may be mitigated by supports in the child’s life as well as the child’s level of resilience.
Even if children do not “see” the violence, they are still aware of what is going on in the home. Children can be impacted when they:
What are the impacts on children?
Young children are especially vulnerable during incidences of intimate partner violence because they are small, unable to protect themselves, and likely to be home when conflict is occurring. As well, young children are less likely than older children to have supports and relationships outside of their home, and frequently are unable to tell someone about the abuse due to language development.