Domestic violence is a hidden and prevalent public health issue affecting Americans of all backgrounds and economic levels. While public awareness and prominent public campaigns on how to access help have increased, the numbers are still sobering. Nearly three out of 10 women experience intimate partner violence and three to four million children are at risk of domestic violence exposure annually. Cases of domestic violence overwhelmingly include women who are victims of male partners, but can also include male victims, as well as female victims of same sex partners, and cut across race, religion, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status.
Domestic violence can be physical or psychological and covers a range of behaviors intended to threaten, control, or intimidate. Domestic violence can be subtle or direct and includes physical violence of all kinds, sexual coercion and assault, as well as psychological harassment, and control of the victim. In households where there is abuse, children typically are exposed as witnesses and pawns by the abuser and are also victims themselves. Yet, this violence is typically underreported to police for a variety of reasons that make addressing it more challenging. Fear of reprisals or worsening violence, victim shaming, and financial insecurity often make those who are victimized reluctant to seek help.
Effects on Children
Victims of domestic violence are protected by laws and residents of New Jersey have additional protections specific to state law. Children are at risk of reduced functioning in school, anxiety, depression, and lack of sleep from the high levels of psychological and physical stress they experience. Adult victims may exhibit physical signs of abuse, such as bruising, unexplained injuries, lack of sleep, and diminished ability to function in the workplace or school. Survivors of domestic violence deal with the effects of the trauma long after the experience that can take time and professional counseling to address.
For those who are seeking to leave an abusive partner or file for divorce and child custody, it can often be the most dangerous time. Statistics have shown that the abuser often lashes out when their control is threatened. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that more than half of female homicide victims were fatally injured by current or former intimate partners. If you are planning on leaving an abusive spouse, there are confidential social services and legal resources available to help. It is paramount to work with a skilled domestic violence lawyer who can advise you of your rights and protections from child custody to filing for restraining orders.