Faces Of Domestic Violence Includes Those Of Children, Teen Girls
Domestic violence is a universal problem that has no bounds and all too often young children and teenage girls are among Georgia's thousands of faces of victims, either directly or indirectly. While system responses are primarily targeted toward adult victims of domestic abuse, program administrators of the Department of Human Resources Family Violence Unit say that there's increased attention on children who witness domestic violence as well as those in teen dating violence situations.
National studies show that 10 to 20 percent of children are exposed to domestic violence. For Georgia this translates into approximately 4,500 children who witness the abuse of a parent or caregiver each year. As Georgia commemorates Domestic Violence Awareness Month throughout October, state domestic violence officials want the public to become more aware and educated about the effect family violence has on all victims, including children.
"Sadly, children are often the direct or indirect victims. Just witnessing this violence impacts their lives, especially as it takes place at home, a place where children should feel safe," said Pat Holloway, program director of DHR' Family Violence Unit which is administered through the Division of Family and Children Services. "If children are exposed to domestic violence it increases the chances that they will take on the role of either a batterer or a victim in their adult relationships. Abuse can seem normal to youth who witness it in their own homes. It's tragic."
Children who are exposed to domestic violence are also more likely to exhibit behavioral and health problems including depression and anxiety, more likely than their peers to abuse drugs and alcohol, and are more likely to be involved in teen dating violence. Nearly 30 percent of girls 14 to 17 report knowing someone their age who has been physically hurt or hit by a boyfriend. But Family Violence Program administrators say when properly identified and addressed, the effects of domestic violence on children can be mitigated.
In addition to the vast services for adult victims of domestic violence offered by the Family Violence Unit through agencies across the state, there are support services specifically designed for children including an array of age appropriate children's programs, individual counseling, and parenting support and education. Teen dating violence forums for teenagers - 9th to 12th graders - are also sponsored at various high schools throughout this month.
Georgia has 45 certified family violence agencies or shelters, operated by independent, nonprofit organizations and funded by the Department of Human Resources. They provide 24-hour crisis lines and an array of legal and social services for victims of domestic violence and their children. All services are free and confidential. Additionally, all county DFCS offices have domestic violence assessors who assist DFCS staff to identify and provide crisis intervention and relocation services to domestic violence victims receiving or applying for TANF assistance.