All too often, our clients will justify the abuser’s violent behavior. The victims tell us that the abuser’s childhood was horrible. He witnessed lots of violence. His mother was beaten in front of him. He heard the screams. He saw the blood. His childhood experiences are now his excuse for his own violent behavior. Sometimes the victim feels badly for the abuser even in the midst of the beating. Domestic Violence can be learned in childhood and passed down from one generation to next.
Several years ago a client arrived at the shelter just barely escaping from a deadly situation. In assessing her current risk, it was clear that this client was in grave danger. We asked if she would feel safe here in the shelter and immediately she said she was afraid even inside the shelter because her abuser knew the location of our confidential and private shelter. He knew because as a teenager, he came to our shelter with his mother who was fleeing a domestic violence situation.
How sad. Instead of learning about mutuality and respect for family members, he learned over the years to be an abuser just like his father. His experience did not stop him from being an abuser. He may have thought that his own choice in life is to either be an abuser or a victim. Perhaps he doesn’t think about it at all, but just lives a violence lifestyle that includes controlling and battering family members.
While we feel great sympathy for those who have experienced child abuser or witnessed domestic violence as children, this past experience is no excuse for someone current violent behavior. Most people are surprised to learn that more than 50% of our clients are children living here with their non-offending parent. This gives us a unique opportunity to help those children who have witnessed domestic violence first hand.
Family Abuse Center has an outstanding Children’s Services department. We provide a healing and therapeutic environment for children to feel safe and start the healing process. Our counselor is available for the children and for parents. Evening group is focused on educational and therapeutic activity that provides a place for children to feel safe and grow. Our homework lab assists our school age kids at maintaining and enriching their education. Our Children’s Service Coordinator makes sure that every child’s birthday is remembered and celebrated. Special activities and field trips are planned throughout the year. Summer time in the shelter is a special time for swimming and outdoor fun. We do everything we can so that the little girls who live in the shelter avoid being adult victims. We do everything we can so that little boys have other options than being abusers.
Breaking the generational cycle of abuse is very difficult. For some families there are generations of past violence family interactions. Childhood experiences can never justify violence against another person. Our mission is to eliminate domestic violence. That work often begins with the children who come to the shelter.