Last Updated on October 31, 2018 by Cindy Bekesi
The Irony of Halloween & Identity for Those Who Grew Up with Childhood Domestic Violence (CDV)
Every October, people take the identity of their favorite superheroes, villains, or animated characters. Whether it’s donning a Batman costume, firefighter, pumpkin, fairytale princess, pirate, or a person in a position of leadership and authority, children and adults alike flock to costume shops to transform themselves into someone else for a day.
But Halloween is only one day a year. So, then, are there millions of people who feel like they are wearing costumes and masks and not being themselves every day? That is the irony of Halloween for those who grew up living with Childhood Domestic Violence (CDV). Many are trapped behind the invisible mask CDV has placed on them that they cannot seem to take off and are struck wearing throughout their lives.
If a person grows up living with violence between their parents or violence towards a parent – perhaps from a stepparent or significant other – they experience CDV. The violence can be physical, non-physical, or both, and is NOT directed towards the child.
Imagine being a child and seeing the people you love the most hurt one another. As a child, there isn’t anything you can do. The loss of safety, comfort, stability, innocence, and often, the total loss of being a child, brings with it immeasurable repercussions with ripple effects that often last well into adulthood.
Among the most significant effects of growing up with CDV is that it can instill LIES about who they really are and what their place is in the world. CDV negatively wires a developing brain, encoding a series of negative beliefs that if unchecked early on, become ingrained and form the foundation of their cognitive belief system self concept. They go on to often scar or cripple some or all crucial areas of their life: their physical health, mental health, behaviors, and/or relationships.
The statistics associated with CDV speak for themselves. Individuals who experienced CDV are 6x more likely to commit suicide, 50% more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol and 74% more likely to commit a violent crime.
Growing up with CDV can hold people back from living their lives as they were meant to and reaching their full potential. The LIES lead them to build a facade in their lives, which becomes like a mask they wear every day – a mask that holds them back from their true selves and their full potential in life. A mask they’re trapped inside that holds them hostage and keeps them from being who they truly are and were meant to be throughout their lives – not just for one day of the year.
CDV impacts an estimated 15+ million children and 40+ million adult Americans were impacted in childhood. Globally, 275 million children are impacted. That’s roughly 1 in 7 people. But despite the scale of this problem, there’s currently less than 15% awareness of CDV and many of those who experiences it don’t even know they experienced something – so they’re oblivious to the connection between their childhood experience and the struggles they’ve faced their whole lives.
Working together, we can help change that. We can all play our part in making a difference and turning the tide for them. Here are some simple things you can do today to help break them out of their mask and give them a new lease on life:
-AWARENESS IS KEY: Creating awareness can be critical in helping millions impacted. Change can only happen through Awareness, Understanding, and Sharing. Firstly, just having a universal name for what they went through helps brand it in the minds of those impacted and validates their experience in our society. Knowing that it is a thing and what to call it can be a pivotal first step forward…for them and for our society as a whole. By simply visiting and sharing our website – www.cdv.org – you can create self-awareness and help build awareness in others.
-EMPOWERING PROFESSIONALS TO BE THE ONE: Second, educating and creating a strong understanding of CDV’s effects among the hundreds of thousands of professionals who interact with impacted children and adults daily is essential, as no comprehensive tools or trainings have ever existed before to properly prepare them to optimally intervene. Those resources exist now – we developed them collaboratively with leading researchers and using the best known practices in the field. If you’re a professional, check our unprecedented, evidence-based, award-winning resources & trainings to get educated and learn more about educating your peers. Knowing about the gravity of the problem and key solutions can begin to mitigate its alarming impact by fostering the resiliency of those affected.
-OUR CDV TOOLKIT IS A ROADMAP: Some of our most significant tools are packaged together, along with training and individual discussion guides and other supplemental materials, into our CDV TOOLKIT, which can be a catalyst for change in the lives of millions who grow up living with CDV. The TOOLKIT was distributed to over 100 related organizations nationwide in the past year through a nationally-funded resource distribution campaign. “It provides them with groundbreaking tools and a compelling roadmap, developed by leading researchers, to help them gain efficacy and confidence in helping those impacted heal and overcome the negative effects of CDV or other major adversities. And we provide the support to deploy and optimize it. This resource has been praised consistently in feedback from our partners and can bring great value to any organization that serves at-risk individuals in a high-touch way,” said Brian F. Martin, Founder and CEO, Childhood Domestic Violence Association.
Let’s think of this Halloween as more than just a dress-up day. When we see people roaming the streets in their favorite character costume and masks, donning a different identity for the day, let’s pause to reflect on all the children and adults who feel like someone else 365 days of the year. Let’s think of this Halloween as an opportunity to help them “take off the mask,” uncover their true selves, and begin to live the life they always hoped for but have struggled to attain – the life that was truly meant for them.