Reducing domestic violence in the community

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Encyclopedia of Child and Adolescent Health, First Edition


Domestic violence (DV) is any type of physical, sexual, emotional, or abusive behavior from one intimate partner toward another that threatens a person's well-being. DV is an epidemic which has long-ravaged communities of every socioeconomic status, age, sexual orientation, gender, race, religion, and nationality. Given that DV is rarely nonrecurring, many families’ realities are characterized by factors which place them at a higher risk for ongoing DV incidents (poverty, economic distress, parental mental health concerns, and community isolation). Children and teens are often the invisible survivors of domestic violence, as it is estimated that as many as 15 million US children witness DV each year. Chronically witnessing DV is a severely disruptive, often traumatic event for children that can cause a myriad of symptoms. A biopsychosocial framework allows us to understand all the intricate pathogenic consequences that trauma has on the developing infant, child, and adolescent. However, most individuals, including children, recover naturally from traumatic experiences and demonstrate great resilience. One of the most significant factors which helps children recover from trauma, including domestic violence, is having a strong relationship with a caregiver. Having the nonviolent parent as a secure base helps the child heal and maintain healthy development. Additionally, children's relationships with their extended family, their community leaders, and their school staff have proven to mitigate the negative effects of DV. The child's community is arguably the best resource to understand the child's cultural context, relationships, and development; thus, the community plays a substantial role in creating resilient and strong children through initiatives and preventative measures.

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