The talk around domestic violence has started to include the impact on childhood for children raised in an abusive household. There is absolutely no way a child can live in a home where abuse is a daily part of life and not be effected. Children witness the dysfunction abuse creates.

Abuse becomes the norm

They have no power to change what is happening within the household and will blame themselves as a coping mechanism. By children blaming themselves it gives the false illusion that they have control over what is happening in the family. And that feeling of control however destructive it is better than feeling powerless and out of control.

As hard as it is to imagine from the outside, the dysfunction of an abusive household is normal to the children growing up in it. This creates a view of the world and a way of being in it which is itself dysfunctional.

These children (like myself) grow up to be adults where abuse and dysfunction feel like home.

So what now?

We are starting to see the correlation between women grew up in an abusive household and those who end up living with domestic family violence as adults. But we must also look at the correlation between men becoming perpetrators and the impact of childhood domestic violence.

Obviously, not all men who grow in abusive households will grow up to abuse, some will grow up to be abused themselves. And many will grow up to be kind, caring and loving men. But the impact of their early trauma will stay with them, unless the abuse is addressed.

When we know better we do better.

Having grown up with a brother, in what I will politely call a very dysfunctional family. I am left asking; ‘How were either of us supposed to know how to be well-rounded adults when this was not taught or modelled to us as children?’ Our path was pre-destined.

Early intervention would have changed the outcome for us and could change the outcome for so many of our young people. We are failing them at the moment. They jump from victim to victim or victim to perpetrator with nothing in between.

Are all perpetrators survivors of child abuse? No, but does that mean helping those that are, will make a positive impact them and their future relationships. I believe so.

Because what we are doing at the moment is not working.

As I write this I know some people will strongly disagree about the need to focus precious resources on perpetrator programs. But if this kind of intervention can reduce the numbers when it comes to domestic violence, then in my opinion it is money well spent.

Not all abusers will respond to the training and I do not see this as an overnight quick fix. But, if these programs can change the lives of the next generation of children then is it not worth a try.

An abusive childhood doesn’t need to be a self-fulling prophecy. If we as a society step up and say ‘we are here to help if you are willing to change we are here to help’


Lisa McAdams

About Lisa: Lisa is a survivor of domestic violence who shares her story openly; along with knowledge and understanding of abuse and her experience from her time in corporate to help companies develop an organisational culture of empathy and understanding.

She helps by bringing insights on this complex and emotional subject, ensuring managers understand the issue, the signs and how to communicate with those impacted by domestic violence.

Lisa is passionate about educating workplaces so they can ensure women in abusive relationships remain in the workplace. Because employment improves outcomes and can ultimately save lives.

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