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Silent Victims of Domestic Violence

Posted by Walt Thompson on Friday, 15 November 2013 in Health Smart 1 Comment

Silent Victims of Domestic Violence

In America alone, more than 15 million children live in family settings in which intimate partner violence occurs, and 7 million of these are direct or indirect witnesses to severe violence of an assault (often with a weapon) by one of the other partners against the other. This according to an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Oct. 13, 2013. (Megan Bair-Merritt, M.D. M. S. C. E. et. al - N ENGL J Med 369:18 Oct. 13, 2013)

Yet, for the most part their plight is overlooked when the abused partner undergoes screening or receives help. It is these children that Dr. Bair-Merritt describes as “silent victims” in the growing epidemic of domestic violence.

Facts are, though silent, these young victims are not free of serious health consequences, many of which appear to be related to the way the human body responds to stress. There is that immediate response that we all experience from time to time when faced with a dire emergency—much like a mouse being pounced upon by a cat. Once the attack is over (if it survives) the mouse rapidly returns to its non-stressed state. The response is much different when one is under a constant state of stress, fear, pain, etc. These chronic, on-going stressors affect the autonomic (automatic) nervous system that may reach a point where they may actually become “embedded” in a person. Hormones produced in the brain stimulate the various hormone producing glands throughout the body (neuro-endocrine response) are then responsible for many of the mental, social and physical manifestations that afflict the stressed child. One carefully studied example is that of asthma. Chronic stress of this nature may actually cause asthma to develop in a person, with each stress event aggravating the asthma, bringing on or worsening an attack. In time, such attacks may become resistant to help by the usually recommended medications.

In addition to causing and/or aggravating physical health problems, social and emotional health are also affected, with more than half of such “silent victims” suffering from below average emotional health, and often resulting in social challenges as well.

The development of the human brain from beginning to end consists of the growth and “Pruning” (removing) brain cells (neurons) in response to the need as it arises. One such example is that the nerve cells that normally give vision to a person. These nerve cells develop as the eye develops. If perchance the eye fails to develop normally, the nerve cells may not develop, resulting in blindness. This is true with all of the functions of the human body. So, nerves that might normally develop in these “silent victims” may be impaired and thus preventing these children from developing into normally functioning individuals--often instead leading to the over-development of fear driven, and underdevelopment of reason and objective functions. In this way, a person’s lifelong health history, physically, mentally and socially, may be affected.

While some of these malfunctions may be prevented, lessened, or aided by screening children of abused parents and giving attention to correcting the abusive environment while providing loving support for the victims, it will not happen unless health care providers are aware of the problem and the need for attention to the problem.

Unfortunately, our entire world is broken and hurting. Intimate Partner Violence is not about to go away, but, rather, is self-replicating with each subsequent generation.

Fortunately, the Holy Bible gives hope for the future. It is in this we must trust while doing the best we can with present conditions.

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