Childhood domestic violence is what happens to any person who grows up in a home living with domestic violence in their childhood. UNICEF calls it “one of the most pervasive human rights issues of our time.”
Domestic violence from a childhood standpoint is when there is violence between parents or when there is violence toward a parent – perhaps from a stepparent or a significant other.
The violence can be physical or non physical. I can’t tell you how often I hear, “there wasn’t any physical violence between my parents, but the words they used – to me – I felt them physically.”
I recently met Crystal, a bright, beautiful young woman one year away from graduating from a well-known university. She had grown up in a household where they used words and tone as weapons. Today, she is still fearful. She lacks confidence and feels that she is ultimately not good enough to become anything after she graduates. In an interview, I asked her, “When you were a child, how did you feel when your parents were screaming? How did you feel when you were anticipating that something bad might happen?” She replied, “I was fearful; I wasn’t courageous enough to stop it. If I was good enough, I would have been able to.”
Today, Crystal feels the same way she felt when she was a child in that house. She bases her experience as an adult on what she believes was true from the past. This is what we do. But of course, because her self-image is based on these lies, she needed to hear the truth. As former children who grew up with domestic violence, why is it that we would allow the opinion of our parents to control our thoughts, feelings, and actions? When you look at it that way, isn’t it silly to be so affected by the words and actions of people whose judgment you know to be questionable? Awareness of these simple facts is the first step to creating change. Crystal began to feel differently when she took control of her thoughts.
In the US alone, there are 40 million adults alive today who experienced CDV and more than 10 million children who are experiencing it currently. Yet, even with these staggering numbers, there is very little awareness of CDV.
So, what is the first step to increasing awareness? We must ask this question: Did you grow up living with domestic violence? This is a key question because it is rarely, if ever, asked. Yet, that question is the pathway to awareness, understanding and sharing.