Report says thousands of children growing in violent homes
By Penelope Paliani-Kamanga
A report released during the 16 days of Activism by the United Nations Children’s Fund has revealed that over 2, 4 million children in Malawi are growing under domestic infested homes raising fears that Malawi could be breeding a violent generation.
Unicef Child Protection Officer Asefa Dano said at a press conference that children growing up in such families were likely to grow and become violent adults and parents.
He said a study which was conducted countrywide found out that in most households children were being subjected to physical and verbal violence where they would either be beaten or see their parents fighting.
He said that despite intervention and initiatives against child abuse and domestic violence by both the state and others stakeholder’s violence in the homes was still on the higher side.
The report stated that the rate of co-occurrence of Malawian children experiencing physical abuse and being exposed to domestic violence, and experiencing sexual abuse and being exposed to domestic violence have been estimated at 20 percent and 10 percent respectively.
Dano said the media is awash with tragedy stories, children being raped, and beaten by parents who are supposed to be caring for them and now these children count 2.4 million.
He said these children grow up in resentment as there is a correlation between child growth and his or her growing environment.
“Those children who are growing up in houses where there is domestic violence, they also learn to be violent in future. Children also who are growing up in domestic violence, they are also likely to experience themselves domestic violence.
"Information from other countries indicates that 64 % of children who live in violent homes are themselves abused as well,” said Mr. Dano.
Dano said that the traumatisation of children exposed to domestic violence presents an important challenge to legislators, policymakers and community welfare providers.
This was substantiated with statistics from the Police Victim Support Unit in Blantyre where it was reported that at least every day about 10 cases of domestic violence are reported at the various police unit countrywide.
“And most cases they come from well built families where there are children in the houses,” read the report from the police.
MIAA Executive Director Robert Ngaiyaye said the faith community also has also a crucial role to play in sensitizing communities and reducing violence, abuse, exploitation and negligence of children.
“The children of this country face a lot of challenges in terms of abuse, torture, and neglect by even guardians who take care of them. And therefore it is significant that we must have a day set aside to pray for these evils.
As religious leaders we are guided by the word God and we have the responsibility to ensure that children are well protected,” said Ngaiyaye
Gender Activist Tione Mwanza said there was need to put in place a range of policy initiatives and programs that seek to address domestic violence and child abuse, and more specifically those that address children’s exposure to domestic violence.
Research indicates that there are a number of strategies that could inform effective responses to this problem, including: increased awareness of children’s exposure to domestic violence as a form of child abuse; early intervention, which has been identified as crucial to disrupting the intergenerational transmission of domestic violence.
Mwanza said that growing up in a violent home is one of the most terrifying and traumatic experiences a child can go through. “It’s an experience that a child will not forget. It’s an experience that can affect every aspect of a child’s life, growth and their development.”
He said there is a definite correlation between domestic violence and child abuse. Growing up in a violent home can set patterns for children patterns that can cause them to commit violence and abuse, and continue the cycle of violence and abuse.
Children living in violent homes are often too frightened have low self esteem and embarrassed to speak out. They are also more apt to become high school dropouts, substance abusers, pregnant teens, gun users, and become juvenile and adult criminals.
It’s reported that 50 percent of the men who frequently assault their wives, also frequently abuse their children. School-age kids who grow up in violent homes generally exhibit a range of problem behaviors such as: depression, anxiety, and violence towards their peers.
When a parent terrorizes another parent, their children are terrorized too! Anger is deeply set within those children … anger that is so deep and long-lasting that when that child reaches adulthood, the damage is already done.
The terrorist parent leaves his children an incredible legacy of pain and problems -- societal and emotional problems that may never disappear.
Thandi a survivor of domestic violence said: “She didn’t think she ever could have known what an impact and witnessing domestic violence would have on her son’s life. Her son witnessed domestic violence continuously for the first six years of his life. His behavior became progressively worse, especially as he began to socialize with other kids.
In kindergarten he became outraged if something did not go his way, and on many occasions, bit other children so hard that he drew blood. He would often slam and break things for no apparent reason, and had constant violent temper tantrums. It was at this time that this victim found the courage to leave the violent relationship she had with her son’s father.
He was physically aggressive towards other students, and constantly walked out of class when teachers confronted him with his disruptive behavior. The school alerted the mother to the fact that her son’s behavior wasn’t normal. Although her struggle as a victim is over, she must now stand by and watch her son struggle through the same journey.
She feels she failed to protect him. There is nothing she can do to make it better, as her son experiences the effects of a family legacy that has claimed many victims. She has now sought psychological assistance for her son to deal with this long and painful legacy.
We know that violence is learned behavior. Children learn it from their parents and the cycle continues.
We also know that whatever is learned can be unlearned. It is up to all of us to be educated and learn all of the signs, symptoms and what we can do to stop children from hurting – to destroy the legacy!
CHILDREN WHO GROW UP IN HOMES WHERE VIOLENCE IS PRESENT ARE:
- 6 times more likely to commit suicide
- 24 times more likely to be sexually assaulted
- 67 times more likely to engage in delinquent behavior as an adolescent
- 100 times more likely to be abusers themselves