Children who witness domestic violence on a regular basis can develop a variety of reactions. Some of the common reactions are nightmares, sleep disturbances, bedwetting, school problems, fighting, failing to make friends, abuse of siblings or pets, depression, becoming very aggressive or retreating to silence. The type of reaction will depend on factors such as the frequency and level of violence, the age of the child and his or her personality. Some experience several of these, some may experience something different. Often, there is this feeling of being trapped in a hopeless situation. The child might believe they are responsible for the violence. Many also think they should be able to prevent domestic violence and may feel that they have failed the family.
Witnessing domestic violence during my early years, I most certainly believed that it was my fault. I didn’t think that I had done anything to cause the violence, but I believed that I should have been strong enough to prevent it; to protect all of the women I knew who suffered in silence. I had only witnessed one domestic incident in my home. But that single incident, that one day, changed my life forever. I was only two-years-old, but my life was changed. Fortunately, my parents were soon separated and I never saw my mother in a situation like that again. But the damage had already been done. I became increasingly distrusting of men. I was unable to sleep throughout the night. I became nervous whenever I heard men elevate their voices because I knew that something was about to happen to whatever woman was nearby.
Over the next several years, I witnessed domestic violence in so many settings with extended family, friends, and even strangers. I tried on a few occasions to intervene. I even pulled a knife on someone once. Thankfully they backed away and I didn’t have to find out if I would actually use it. I don’t know if I would have although I always say I would. Most of the relationships where I witnessed domestic violence did not end as a result of the violence. Instead, the family learned to live with the violence. They learned to do whatever they could to avoid the violence and outsiders learned to ignore the violence.
As a teen, I was so aggressive with victims/survivors of domestic violence. I couldn’t believe that they would stay. To me, it just didn’t make any sense. Then one day, I think I was about 14 or 15, my mother and I were driving down 55 Street, just before you hit Baltimore Avenue. (If you know Philly, you might know the street.) There was a car in front of us and it stopped in the middle of the street. We could see into the car clearly. The guy in the car had on a red hat, he turned it to the side and punched the woman in the car so hard that her nose started bleeding. He then got out of the car and walked away. I lost it. I started crying and screaming and my mother pulled over and tried to get me to calm down. The woman pulled the car over and my mom asked me what I wanted to do. I told her that I needed tissue. I was shaking. I needed to go to the car. I jumped out the car and went over to the woman. I know my mother thought I was crazy, but she had learned by then that there are some things that I just NEED to do. I got to the car, knocked on the window. The woman just looked at me. Now, keep in mind the fact that I am crying and waving tissue. She rolled down the window and I hand her the tissue. I pause for a moment to cuss out the four men standing on the corner for not apprehending the dude and beating his… Yes, I mean it. I really cussed them out. They just looked at me as if what I said meant absolutely nothing. I focus my attention back to the woman. I tell her that we must call the police and that she must never go back to him. At the end of our conversation, she told me that I was a remarkable young lady, thanked me for the tissue and for stopping. Then she said that she was going back home to work things out. To say that I was devastated would be an understatement.
I was even more angry and hurt after the conversation than I was witnessing the event. I got back into my mother’s white Hyundai Excel. (Yes, this was when we had that Hyundai) No longer shaking, I speak calmly and begin to her how angry I am. She stopped me and said, “Baby, you don't know what people have to go through in order to get out. It is not that easy”. In the next few minutes, my mother taught me that leaving an abusive relationship is not as simple as walking out the front door. She taught me that sometimes you leave and the abuser still comes after you. She taught me that abuse is not only physical but economic, emotional/psychological and even sexual. In those few minutes, she taught me about compassion and care. She encouraged me not to be angry because this woman couldn’t leave TODAY. But most importantly she reminded me that what I did was a good thing. She said, “Somebody will need you to listen without judgment, to care without criticizing, to support and maybe to help escape. Don’t stop caring. Someone needs you".
If you are experiencing domestic violence and need help developing a safety plan, we have resources posted on our site for each state.
If you know someone who is in an abusive relationship, I say to you what my mother said to me. “Somebody will need you to listen without judgment, to care without criticizing, to support and maybe help them find safety. Don’t stop caring. Someone needs you".
To get more information, please visit www.ijustbelievegod.org or email us firstname.lastname@example.org
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Once upon a time, a 17-year-old girl was in a relationship with a man who meant her no good. He attacked her, and in the process of trying to get away, she jumped off a retainer wall and broke her ankle. She didn't escape. She landed in a hospital; and had to learn how to walk again. She had to quit playing sports. She lied to her mother, protected him, and stayed with him for 4 months after the incident occurred. To this day every time it rains she remembers...
That girl was me.
Tonight in my women's batterer intervention class, we talked about things that we don't forgive ourselves for. These beautiful women shared their stories of trauma, and I listened with unending support, but also from a place of deep understanding.
I am not glad that this is a part of the story of Amber. God did not intend for this to happen to me to make me stronger, or to prepare me to do this work. My God would never put me in harm just to turn me into a great therapist. I do not go to work and think "thank God for this personal experience I have with this topic." Being a survivor of domestic violence is not a gift.
Instead, I choose to live in my truth. I'm a great therapist who just so happens to be many things and one of those things is a survivor of domestic violence. Like me, each of these women and each of these men that I work with are more than just a story, more than just a situation. it is my humanity that makes me a good therapist. it is their humanity that makes them worthy of the chance to have abundant life. I thank God for the work I do. one day it is my prayer that the world does not need a therapist who do what I do.~ Rev. Amber Burgin
Be part of the community that helps and heals. We thank Rev. Amber Burgin for doing the work to help others heal!
Remember, for adolescents, rates of experiencing some form of dating violence vary but it is estimated that at least 20% of teens experience dating violence. Women age 16 to 24 experience the highest per capita rate of intimate partner/domestic violence.
Have conversation with the teens in your life today. Don't ignore the signs.
There’s a lull in the middle of the night.
There's no yelling, punching, crying.
No one begging for him to stop.
There are no sons sitting in the corner with covered ears and tears streaming down their faces.
No daughters plotting revenge.
Should be asleep, yet still wide awake replaying the noises of the day.
Rehearsing how I’ll fight if he ever comes for me that way.
Wondering why no one says anything.
Looking toward the window, I notice day attempting to break through.
Soon everyone will be awake.
Pretending not to notice the bruises he left
or the screams heard the night before.
We will walk on eggshells, wear our best fake smiles,
pretend that all is well.
See, we've been taught to ignore our pain, even if it kills us.
Only here for the summer,
so as soon as this summer ends, things can go back to normal.
I won’t have to pretend that I don't hear the screams for help,
or that I don't see her purplish-black eye,
or that I don't notice my brothers growing bitter inside as they watch their mother’s spirit die.
But my fear is that it will be hard to go back to normal.
I’ve witnessed so many beatings, the sight of abuse no longer makes me ill.
My fear is that I’ll be her 20 years from now…
That thought gives me chills.
When Fall is here, I cannot un-see the bruises.
Winter and Spring, I’ll still hear the screams.
I carry the pain of summer with me long after the summer ends.
And before you know it, its time to go back and pretend.
To think, summer used to be my friend.