The phenomenon of violence against women and girls (VAWG) remains a tragically common issue. Furthermore, the majority of cases of VAWG are represented by intimate partner violence (IPV) (Bacchus et al., 2018). As a result, not only women but also their children suffer extensive and immense trauma that affects their lives in a most tragic way. In children, apart from the threat of sustaining physical damage as an effect of VAWG, the presence of emotional trauma must be addressed since it affects their further psychosocial development and creates prerequisites for multiple mental health issues (Bacchus et al., 2018). VAWG affects children psychologically, leading to PTSD and related issues, including anxiety and depression, as well as physical harm, which represents an especially massive threat for girls, requiring trauma-informed therapy.
VAWG and IPV are unfortunately common not only in the U.S. but also globally, causing women and their children multiple psychological and physical traumas. The phenomenon of VAWG has a direct effect on children. Recent studies prove that witnessing acts of violence committed against women, especially family members, particularly mothers, leads to tremendous psychological trauma in most children (Bacchus et al., 2018). Specifically, Austin et al. (2017, p. 499) report that “children exposed to IPV exhibit more social problems, posttraumatic stress symptoms, psychosomatic problems, and difficulties in school compared to their nonexposed counterparts.” Therefore, observing VAWG in children leads to the emergence of multiple psychological and emotional issues, which further affect their psychosocial and psychoemotional development (Bacchus et al., 2018).
Additionally, the impact that VAWG produces on children can be represented as a twofold phenomenon. Namely, the research by Austin et al. (2017) recommends examining the phenomenon of the described psychological trauma as the combination of internalizing and externalizing issues, the former being represented by depression and anxiety, whereas the latter manifesting themselves as personality disorders. Specifically, aggression and the development of antisocial behaviors are likely to be observed in children who have witnessed VAWG or young girls that have been subjected to VAWG (Bacchus et al., 2018). Furthermore, in the environment of the COVID-19 pandemic, instances of VAWG have become increasingly more frequent, as recent studies report, which indicates greater exposure of children to the specified phenomenon (Marques et al., 2020). Therefore, the approaches for addressing the effects of VAWG in children will have to include the strategies for managing behavioral disorders.
The use of trauma-informed therapy is currently seen as the most legitimate approach to alleviating the effects of the trauma suffered by children who have experienced VAWG or observed it. Specifically, the use of a strength-based trauma-informed therapy framework is becoming increasingly meaningful as a strategy for managing the damaging effects of VAWG observed in children (Bacchus et al., 2018). Specifically, in their book, Burton and Choo (2019) emphasize the significance of the proposed tool as the framework for meeting the needs of children who have witnessed violence against women. Namely, the approach in question implies encouraging a paradigm shift that will allow children to unlearn the aggressive behaviors developed as a response to the trauma, while building healthy coping skills (Bacchus et al., 2018). Therefore, the use of a trauma-informed therapeutic approach is vital. Moreover, the focus on the client’s strengths is a vital part of the proposed therapeutic tool since it allows a child to determine their emotional and psychological strengths that can serve as the basis for mitigating the harm experienced (Bacchus et al., 2018). Therefore, the application of a strength-based trauma-informed therapeutic strategy as a method of counseling and addressing mental health concerns and behavioral issues is highly recommended.
Another strategy that can support children that have witnessed and/or experienced VAWG involves the focus on the promotion of patient education along with the alleviation of trauma. Geared primarily toward mothers who have suffered abuse and had their children witnessing it, the proposed therapeutic approach suggests focusing on providing mothers with the education and interventions for using cognitive behavioral therapy tools as the means of supporting their children. The proposed method has the benefit of exposing children to a healthy environment and encouraging healing not only in the presence of a therapist but also in the environment of their home. Specifically, the fact that the mother accepts a supportive and guiding role in assisting a child with managing the trauma and developing coping mechanisms is of particular significance (Anderson & Van Ee, 2018). Namely, due to the strong and long-established emotional connection and rapport between a mother and a child, the efficacy of the proposed strategy is likely to be exceptionally high (Bacchus et al., 2018). Therefore, the specified approach should be regarded as another effective tool for addressing the trauma experienced by children after witnessing violence against their mothers.
In fact, the concept of child-mother therapy as a strategy that produces a tremendous impact on the well-being of children witnessing VAWG has been explored as a valid tool for providing short- and long-term psychological support for the target population. Namely, in his study, Lloyd (2018) reports the increasing role of educators, particularly school officials, in cooperating with mothers in settings that imply a threat of family violence. Specifically, Lloyd (2018, p. 5) mentions that “Schools responding to domestic violence also entails working with parents, especially mothers who tend to be the non-offending parent.” Therefore, a collaboration between officials and mothers can be seen as a vital step in administering the required psychological and emotional support for children while they cannot be transported to a safer environment. As a temporary measure, the proposed strategy is essential, yet it is crucial to ensure that the target population receives further opportunities for moving to a more secure environment where they will be protected from their abusers.
Overall, the measures described above should be seen as equally important. Therefore, to safeguard populations at risk, primarily children suffering from VAWG, an amalgamation of the three approaches described above will be needed. Starting with the process of collaboration with authorities to ensure the secure provision of the necessary psychological and emotional support, further steps geared toward providing physical safety and introducing children to trauma-based therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) will be required. Thus, the population at risk will be able to build the skills for addressing their trauma.
Since VAWG scars children emotionally and psychologically, as well as often implies physical damage for female children and teenage girls specifically, trauma-informed therapy is needed to address the observed health issues. In addition to a trauma-informed approach that should involve the development of awareness and a change in behaviors and perceptions through the use of games, therapists should also consider involving mothers in the process of healing. Thus, children who have developed trauma after witnessing family violence will be able to develop the required resilience and overcome the emotional issue that they have developed. For this reason, further focus on developing approaches toward assisting children that have experienced trauma after observing VAWG, and interdisciplinary collaboration among local authorities and healthcare experts will be required. Similarly, additional channels for communication with the target audience, including both children and their mothers, will be needed. Thus, the instances of psychological and emotional trauma will be addressed, and the threat of physical harm can be effectively prevented.
Anderson, K., & Van Ee, E. (2018). Mothers and children exposed to intimate partner violence: A review of treatment interventions. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 15(9), 1955. Web.
Austin, A. E., Shanahan, M. E., Barrios, Y. V., & Macy, R. J. (2019). A systematic review of interventions for women parenting in the context of intimate partner violence. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 20(4), 498-519. Web.
Bacchus, L. J., Ranganathan, M., Watts, C., & Devries, K. (2018). Recent intimate partner violence against women and health: A systematic review and meta-analysis of cohort studies. BMJ Open, 8(7), 1-20. Web.
Burton, A., & Choo, C. C. (2019). A case of a child survivor of family trauma: Creating a safe place, building strengths through play. In Clinical psychology casebook across the lifespan (pp. 1-13). Springer.
Lloyd, M. (2018). Domestic violence and education: Examining the impact of domestic violence on young children, children, and young people and the potential role of schools. Frontiers in Psychology, 9, 2094.
Marques, E. S., Moraes, C. L. D., Hasselmann, M. H., Deslandes, S. F., & Reichenheim, M. E. (2020). Violence against women, children, and adolescents during the COVID-19 pandemic: Overview, contributing factors, and mitigating measures. Cadernos de Saude Publica, 36(4), 1-6. Web.