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Not many people would argue that violence in the home destroys families individual lives and upsets the community When a domestic violence incident occurs we often readily identify the obvious victim the adult However we often overlook the unintended victims Our children silent sufferers of domestic violence are often difficult for professionals to identify Some of these children live in battered womens shelters and some are with mothers who are seeking legal or community based assistance in coping with family violence Yet these numbers account for a small fraction of the more than three million children annually estimated to witness acts of domestic violence Other sectors of this population are hidden in families that are similarly affected but do not self-identify Complicating the identification process is the veil of secrecy that surrounds violence in families Children may experience feelings of shame guilt and divided loyalties to parents as well as fear of repercussions making it unlikely that they will disclose the violence to others Battered mothers may also maintain secrecy realistically fearing that disclosure may further jeopardize their safety and that of their children Groves Zuckerman Marans 1993 School personnel who spend significant time with children may be unsure how to interpret problematic symptoms that children display In addition they may be unable to elicit or respond to disclosures about the childs home situation Our pediatricians are not all trained to screen for domestic violence and rarely inquire about it American Academy of Pediatrics 1998 When children are brought to mental health professionals because of problem behavior screening for the presence of family violence is not routine Wolfe Korsch 1995 With identification of the children who witness domestic violence often times a difficult task professionals often fail to detect that exposure to domestic violence is a contributing factor to the childs struggles Children who exhibit problematic behavior may receive inappropriate treatment because professionals are unaware of the cause of their symptoms
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