Studies show that children are spectators of our present societies and will be actors in our future societies. This is why it is important to put in place the necessary conditions for them to grow up in a harmonious and environment favorable for their development.
Therefore they recognize the importance of intervening as a priority for children and of supporting initiatives to develop concrete prevention measures, in particular those related to domestic and family violence. The majority of the actions undertaken so far have concerned women who are victims of domestic violence and it is only in recent years that the concern has arisen to develop strategies adapted to the children exposed and witnesses of these acts of violence. That the Child Witness Program was born.
It is important to note that this concept of exposure encompasses several realities:
- The child may be an eyewitness to the violence suffered by his / her mother;
- The child may hear violent words or gestures while nearby;
- The child can experience the consequences of the violence without seeing or hearing scenes of violence (wounds, tears, mother’s stories, police intervention)
As noted by Peled (1997), Eisikovits et al. (1998), exposure to spousal violence is a complex experience that can be experienced in four different ways:
- Children live with the secret. The memories of violent events are sealed in the memory of the child and their consequences persist in everyday life.
- Children experience conflicts of loyalty. They know that violence is present in their family, but they are unable to take a clear position on either side.
- Children live in fear and terror when they have taken a stand for one of the parents and the conflict of loyalty is present.
- Children live in a context of domination and aggression. They associate with the abuser by accepting and using the same behaviors of violence and control in their interpersonal skills.
This leads to a breakdown in the mother-child relationship. Indeed, children apprehend contradictory emotions (love versus hate, attachment versus detachment, closeness versus rejection) towards one or both parents.
The traumatic consequences are numerous and varied, both in expression and in intensity. They are closely related to the duration of exposure to domestic and family violence, the social and family environment (restricted or expanded), the personality and age of the child.
In addition, children who witnessed violence are prone to present more health problems ranging from stunting, allergies, ENT disorders, dermatological disorders, headaches, stomachaches, sleep and food disorders. They are also more likely to be victims of accidents (8 times more surgical procedures). In addition, there are adjustment disorders: separation anxiety, school phobias, learning difficulties, concentration disorders, but also behavioral problems, irritability and hyperactivity (10 to 17 times more than children who grew up in a non-violent home).