Guest Post: My experience as a child witness of domestic violence

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By Millie Grgas

In the middle of Spring-cleaning this year, I found this old tape recording of my first trip to Paris with my mom when I was 5. Listening to that cassette reminds me of how lucky I am to have one parent who cared enough about me and my safety to leave her abuser.

My name is Millie Grgas and I am a survivor and child witness of domestic violence.

No one can tell that right off the bat, though. I am a genuinely happy and well-adjusted individual. One of the most traumatizing things about violence is that even if it is physically destructive, what lasts long after the scars on your skin fade are the emotional and psychological fractures. Those are things that I have to work on every day.

I try to emphasize that abuse is something that happened to me; it does not define me. That said, I know that it has definitely affected me and my outlook on life. I know that it has certainly affected my relationship with the opposite gender.

I grew up always referring to my abuser as “stupid,” never by his actual name. The thought of calling him dad or even “my father” just didn’t feel right. My mom and grandparents never tried to change the way I referred to him, because as they were told by my court-mandated therapists, it was a normal reaction. Not necessarily a healthy one, looking back on it, but these family-therapy sessions were pretty new technologies back when VAWA was just in its beginning phases in creating resources for women. (Childhood trauma was still a burgeoning field of practice.)

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New Trauma Checklist for Lawyers and Legal Advocates

Court youth toolkit

By Lisa Conradi

According to the National Survey on Children’s Exposure to Violence, most of our society’s children are exposed to violence and trauma in their daily lives. Each year, millions of children and adolescents in the United States are exposed to violence in their homes, schools, and communities. Researchers have labeled children who have experienced seven or more types of victimization as “polyvictims.” For many of these children, this exposure can have both short- and long-term effects. Short-term effects include difficulty regulating emotions, challenges in cognitive development, behavior problems and attachment difficulties. Long-term effects include a higher likelihood of adverse health outcomes, such as obesity, heart disease, and cancer (Felitti et al., 1998).

In order to address this critical need, multiple efforts are underway to increase awareness, early identification, and intervention efforts related to children’s exposure to violence and trauma. One of the critical areas in need of training on the impact of violence on children is the legal system. Recently, the Safe Start Center, the American Bar Association (ABA) Center on Children and the Law, and Child & Family Policy Associates developed the “Polyvictimization and Trauma Identification Checklist and Resource Guide” (Checklist). This Checklist was designed to help lawyers and other legal advocates for children recognize the prevalence and impact of polyvictimization and perform more trauma-informed legal and judicial system advocacy. The Checklist, along with the Flowchart on Trauma-Informed Actions (Flowchart), can be used by children’s attorneys, juvenile defenders, court-appointed special advocates, and other advocates in both the dependency (child welfare) and delinquency (juvenile justice) systems.

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In Search Of: Domestic Violence Awareness Month bloggers!

We’re gearing up for Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October and we’re once again looking for some new voices for our blog – your voices.

We’re looking for anyone with a story to tell, about domestic violence and children, to write a brief blog post. Parents, have you experienced domestic violence, and if so, how did it affect your children? What did you do about it? Practitioners, what have you experienced in relation to domestic violence and children or what tips do you have for others? Do you have a program for children who have been exposed to domestic violence? Tell us about it!

Please send your blog post – with your full name, contact information and a picture of yourself, if you have one – to info@safestartcenter.org. We will run guest posts through the entire month of October.

Before you get started, take a cruise around the blog or visit www.safestartcenter.org to see what we’re all about.

We look forward to reading your posts!

Guest post: Stop Bullying by Promoting Pro-Social Skills on the Playground

Jill Vialet is the founder and CEO of Playworks. Vialet has worked for more than 25 years in the nonprofit sector, during which she focused her entrepreneurial skills on conceiving of and growing two successful nonprofit organizations.

For too many children, violence in the news, on television, on the Internet and even just beyond the schoolyard fences, is a part of their daily lives. The last thing we need is for our children to be exposed to violence in school. Unfortunately, violence does occur in schools every day, in the form of bullying. Bullying is defined as  the “intentional aggressive behavior that tips the balance of power and  is often repeated over time.. And according to the National School Climate Center, every seven minutes a child is bullied on a school playground.

When bullying, teasing and name-calling are present on a school campus, it contributes to an environment in which students’ physical and social-emotional safety is at risk. It is the responsibility of the school, and in the best interest of the grown-ups working there, to create safe communities that ultimately help contribute to learning.

The good news is that there is a way to prevent bullying, one that focuses on recess and extends into the classroom. At Playworks, we have been promoting safe, healthy play on schoolyards for the past 16 years. A recent study by Mathematica Policy Research and Stanford University showed that Playworks schools not only prevent bullying, but increase students’ feeling of safety and inclusion.

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Guest post: Join the Movement to Promote Children’s Mental Health

By Joy Spencer, Policy and Research Assistant for the National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health. Their website features tons of resources and information about their efforts.

The first full week in May is Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week!  Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week is dedicated to increasing public awareness about the triumphs and challenges in children’s mental health, emphasizing the importance of family and youth involvement and leadership in the mental health movement.

Children’s mental health matters. Emotional, behavioral, mental health and substance abuse needs cut across all income, educational, geographical, religious and other cultural groups.  One in five young people have one or more emotional, behavioral, or mental health challenges.  One in ten youth have challenges severe enough to impair how they function at home, school, or within the community. [1] And 80 percent of people who experience mental health or substance use challenges report onset before the age of 20.[2]

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Guest post: How to Protect Children from Sexual Abuse

By Cary Betagole
Cary is a proud supporter of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, while also proliferating information on the need for sexual harassment training in the workplace.

It’s every parent’s worst nightmare: you receive a phone call from your child’s school or read an alarming story about a sexual predator in the newspaper. Your next question, “could my child be a victim?” would only be justified.

Well, there are certainly steps that any parent or concerned caretaker can make to ensure that the children in their charge have a healthy upbringing. While it’s important to remember that most children experience a childhood free of sexual abuse, it’s essential to remain vigilant so as to ensure that our most vulnerable citizens are never harmed by pedophiles.

In celebration of April’s designation as Sexual Assault Awareness Month or SAAM, here are a few tips on how to protect your child, or any child, from sexual abuse.

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London blogger gets survivors talking with #ididnotreport

By London Feminist blogger Julian
Julian is a London blogger who describes herself as a “lawyer, an armchair politician, activist, wannabe writer… [and] a member of London Feminist Network [and] the UK Legal Feminist Group.”

Last month, I began an impromptu campaign on Twitter using the hashtag #ididnotreport.  It arose after I blogged about the Mumsnet campaign “We Believe You,” which focuses on the response of blanket disbelief to reports of rape and sexual assault.  I’d also seen a recent opinion piece in a newspaper about street harassment, which also touched on lack of belief as a reason not to report assaults.

There have been over 20,000 tweets using that hashtag.  I had imagined a few women joining in to share experiences of street harassment, but what I saw instead was an outpouring of accounts ranging from low-level harassment to vicious rapes, from a huge variety of people – female, male, old, young, of all backgrounds.  Perhaps the most striking, and certainly the most shocking, were those which detailed child sexual abuse:

#ididnotreport being sexually assaulted as a 12year old because I didn’t know it was an option. A year later, he raped my friend.

[Same poster] That was reported. She was blamed & social workers told her she’d be sent away to a children’s home if she prosecuted. #ididnotreport

#ididnotreport because I was a child and I didn’t understand that I had no reason to be ashamed.

#ididnotreport because who would I report to? It’s hard when you’re 11 and you know you’ll never escape and no one is on your side.

#ididnotreport because I wanted to protect my family. The ones who shouldve been protecting me. I was a child.

#ididnotreport because I didn’t know it was rape. And because I was 14.

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