If you didn’t grow up with it and live in a home without domestic violence, you are fortunate.
The Domestic Violence Roundtable cites studies that show 3-4 million children between the ages of 3-17 are at risk of exposure to domestic violence each year.
Any person who grew up in a home living with domestic violence experienced childhood domestic violence.
From a childhood standpoint, domestic violence is violence between parents or violence towards a parent—perhaps from a stepparent or a significant other. The violence can be physical or non-physical.
Although UNICEF calls childhood domestic violence “one of the most pervasive human rights issues of our time” it’s rarely discussed.
Brian F. Martin, founder of Children of Domestic Violence (CDV) and author of INVINCIBLE (Perigee Trade, 2014), recently spoke with Marlo Thomas on her web series, Mondays with Marlo, to share the impact of childhood domestic violence, an unspoken epidemic that affects millions.
In his interview with Thomas, Martin explained the impact that domestic violence has on the children who experience it as well as the adults today who grew up with it–even when it’s not physical.
“I can’t tell you, in the past seven years of researching, how many times I’ve heard, ‘there wasn’t any physical violence but the words they used – the words, I felt them physically’,” said Martin, who grew up with domestic violence in his own home. “Even my mother, she still would say— to this day— it was the words that did more damage than anything.”
Martin describes the 10 lies that children of domestic violence grow up believing as a result of their circumstances. According to Martin, they believe they are guilty, resentful, sad, lonely, hopeless, worthless, fearful, self-conscious and that they are unloved.
“I believed every one of these lies myself,” said Martin. “People believe that because I have professional success that everything else is great—but that’s not true. You can be professionally successful, but that doesn’t mean you’re emotionally successful and reaching your full potential. However, you can overcome these feelings by focusing on believing the opposite: the truth.”
Growing up with domestic violence negatively impacts a developing brain and the formation of the cognitive belief system. Today, 10 to 15 million children in the U.S. alone experience violence between their parents, and many are physically abused themselves. Additionally, 40 million American adults – or 1 in 7 – grew up in violent homes, often ending up in violent relationships themselves.
Martin says that the first step to healing from childhood domestic violence is becoming aware of your circumstances and talking about it.
“Once you have become aware of it and are able to talk about it with others, those people can help you learn that you can overcome any obstacle after experiencing domestic violence for so long. As simple as that sounds, that moment never comes unless you start talking about it,” said Martin.
Martin founded CDV in 2007 to raise awareness about this epidemic in an effort to end domestic violence and its impact. CDV is the first non-profit organization dedicated to helping and connecting those who have experienced childhood domestic violence so that they can reach their full potential and break the cycle of violence.