How do you build yourself up, when, as a child, you were exposed to domestic violence?

November 25 has been declared the International Day for Combating Violence against Women. Children exposed to domestic violence often go unnoticed and it is essential to protect them and highlight their situation.

398,310 is the number of children exposed to domestic violence in 2019, according to the High Council for Equality. When a dynamic of domestic violence is present in a family, the children are directly affected by the situation. This is why we are not only talking about child witnesses, but rather children exposed to or victims of domestic violence. A child exposed to intra-family violence can be upset and disrupted in their development by a series of manifestations associated with violence, before, during and after it occurs.

Within the legal framework making it possible to punish the various acts of violence in France, specific measures have been taken in recent years to better prevent and repress gender-based and sexual violence. Despite some laws in place, such as law n ° 2018-703 of August 3, 2018 strengthening the fight against sexual and gender-based violence, violence continues in France. It is important and essential to remember that 1 in 10 women declare themselves a victim of domestic violence: physical, sexual, verbal, psychological, each year. According to the ORVF 2021 report (Regional Observatory of Violence Against Women), each year, 213,000 women and 82,000 men aged 18 to 75 are victims of violence physical and / or sexual by the partner or ex-partner.

The child at the heart of violence

According to expert Louise Delavier, Head of Programs and Communication for the association En Avant All ”,“Domestic violence is very traumatic for the victim but also for the child who attends the arguments”. Whether the violence is carried out in front of his eyes or not, he is part of the family sphere. He sees, he hears, he lives the violence. The child is actually a co-victim. Indeed, “Lhe children are like sponges, they are very sensitive to what is happening in their environment and domestic violence particularly affects them.”Explains the expert.

Often, we consider that a child who does not speak, who does not cry, who is good, is a child who is doing well. But a child who does not speak can also be a child who has learned to be silent to avoid “making things worse”. Tatiana-Laurence Delarue is a woman who lived through these atrocities for a long period of her life. For a long time she was this child exposed to domestic violence from her parents. “I never intervened because I was afraid of making the situation worse”She told us. Also, when a child understands the problem, he may also try to behave very well once he realizes that his mother is having problems. He will have very good grades at school, for example. “It is not academic success or being calm that will translate the fact that the child is well. UA child who is doing well is a child who has room to express his emotions.”Added the expert.

Consequences on psycho-social development

However, not all child co-victims of domestic violence bring home excellent grades. In most cases, they encounter enormous difficulties in their daily life, having no reassuring parental figures: “A child, in order to develop properly, needs emotional and emotional security.”Explains the expert. In some cases, the consequences on psycho-social development are disastrous: eating disorders, emotional deficiencies, addictions or attention disorders. The difficulties encountered may vary depending on the age. According to the 2021 report of the ORVF, for young children, we speak of failure to thrive (insufficient growth in terms of height or weight during childhood), inattention, disturbance of eating habits, disrupted sleep patterns, and developmental delay. In adolescence, other symptoms are revealed such as brutality, lack of self-esteem, somatic problems, suicide, truancy and violence against people they and they frequent.

A predisposition to reproduce violence

In order to protect themselves psychologically, children can identify with the abuser by regularly observing him or her using force or threats. Il may then have to reproduce the mechanisms of the aggressor : “People who have been exposed to violence and co-victims, in most cases, later become abusers”Explains Louise Delavier. They can also become victims themselves or themselves later. They are generally more often subjected to violence afterwards.

Reconstruction of the child

The entourage of the person living or having lived this trauma is one of the most important elements. A child cannot face this problem alone. The expert insists on the fact that it is very important to take the time to listen to him and to believe him, to come back with him on this trauma with kindness. It is essential to explain things clearly to him, to tell him that his mother is not responsible, that this violence is reprehensible in the eyes of the law. It is also necessary to provide him with an adapted psychological follow-up. For Tatiana-Laurence Delarue, the responsibility lies with the adults. ”The child himself cannot do much. He must be protected, he must not keep it to himself. It is up to those around them to make things happen. Adults must explain to him that this is not normal.”.

Tatiana-Laurence shared her testimony with us and explained these different stages of physical and psychological reconstruction after this trauma. According to her, you have to turn the trauma into a force. I think we have to go in search of what we have lived for, to then know what we are going to do with it. Either we decide that it is a drama, or we decide that it is an asset. If we decide that it is an asset, then it is the beginning of the reconstruction, because we transform this experience into something ‘positive’. ‘she declares. She also explains to him that it is important to be reassured by a positive environment.

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If the exposure of children to domestic violence is a real societal issue, things are gradually changing at the level of the laws. A new bill has just been submitted on November 22 and concerns the real suspension of parental authority and visitation and accommodation rights for perpetrators of domestic violence, as well as the full and complete recognition of the child. as a direct victim of violence within the couple and the evaluation of the arrangements for identifying, taking charge of and monitoring the child.

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