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Children who witness violence against other children, adults or animals suffer effects that are immediate, long-term and costly.

Even media portrayals and visual images of violence and abuse can have a disturbing impact on a child.

Effects on the child witnessing violence and abuse may include worthlessness, isolation, aggression and violent behaviour, poor relationships, acting out, emotional and psychological behavioural effects.

Each child who witnesses abuse experiences it differently. Each experience is unique.

Seeing is experiencing. It is terrifying and confusing for a child to witness violence and abuse.

When I see/hear you hit someone, I think it's OK to hit. I'm scared you'll hit me. I think it's my fault. I want to protect those you are hitting. I am afraid I could become you.

History is not doomed to repeat itself.

We must take responsibility to protect children in our communities. Short and long-term treatment for abusers and those subjected to violence and abuse must be available.

    • Violent behaviour is learned. Some studies indicate that between 40% and 60% of assaultive men witnessed wife assault during their childhood.
    • Children exposed to wife assault have similar adjustment problems as children who are themselves physically abused.
    • Serious behaviour problems are 17 times higher for boys and 10 times higher for girls who have witnessed wife assault than for other children. Ontario Women's Directorate

Its your turn to stay awake and keep guard in case daddy wants to play that game again!
Julie Atwood


In a Locked Ward...

We have survived
a holocaust
of rapes
and beatings
at the hands of the man
they called my father

Your bony body
and your heart
your fractured mind
still bear
the scars and bruises
of our life together

I can count
each rib and vertebra
as I rub relief
into your aches

My heart beats broken
for you
for us
and all our stories...
our shattered family.

You are my mother.

The pain we share
is too much








Childhood cries cannot be heard
Reaching out for a whole new world
The pain inside will never go away
Make me believe in tomorrow, today.

Power and trust is what was broken
If I had the knowledge, I would have spoken.
Time has passed, how can it be
That I have no life, I have no dreams.
Life to me seems so unreal
Reaching out, only to feel
The boy inside is no longer real







Out of Control

When the wind was soft
in a new neighbourhood,
Did I play Indiana Jones
with the garage door,
When it was summer
and I broke my arm,

When things were pleasant,
all at the cottage,
Where my brother or me
was slapped for drinking a beer?

I guess it all began then,
In the car, above the garage,
With light coming in through
the windows,
Smoking cigarettes.
That’s when I ...

Now I can’t think of much without feeling screwed up,
Always feeling at a loss,
Out of control and far from peace, from peace,
from calm, from my sense of myself, a screwed
frame\sensed floating through, rigid, pained,
crushed, uptight, yearning
Largely for peace and slithers, That’s all, ...

Each time man
I feel like I could screw
Any association, any verb or thought regarding it,
makes me want to fricken rage.
I’m always looking around waiting for something to
Jump up and screw me over, all the fricken time,
Just an impressionable cunt ...

How can I ever begin to think that a threesome is alright,
How can I ever feel
that any sex or fantasy is alright
without it being screwed up, without it grating your
fricken soul apart and
taking you off track.

How else can I do that?
What else can I think ?
How can I let go of all that,
and with her?
Just feeling so fricken trapped
and pinned down by all of this,
so screwed ...

Years later,
screwed, screwed, screwed
No calm, no peace, no matter,
no nothing, just screwed.
At times it feels too beyond,
all too tiring to
imagine anything but this pain.
Too much pain fricken sucks.
I’m just finding it harder
to think positively
about this in any way.

It only lasts for about one hour
Stubbornly, with reluctance,
I fall to that world of dark,
deep pain, rage, emptiness.




Discussion - The Impact of Witnessing Violence and Abuse

Statements regarding the impact of witnessing abuse:

  • There is a lifetime, long-term effect, which requires long-term treatment.
  • The media must take responsibility: prevention, early intervention, culture, government.
  • Children must learn to settle their differences differently, to deal with their feelings, to learn that healthy anger is okay.
  • How does the child experience abuse when witnessing it? Each experience is unique and has a different effect. For a child who witnesses abuse, the abuse becomes their reality.
  • What does “witnessing abuse” mean? Seeing abuse - a total sensory experience. Seeing is experiencing.
  • I see you hit, I lose self, we lose culture. When I see you hit... I think it’s okay to hit, I’m scared you’ll hit me, I think it’s my fault, I want to protect her/him, I could become you. I see you on TV.
  • Abuse is everywhere and can be witnessed everywhere.

Witnessing violence creates feelings of confusion, helplessness, fear, anger, shame, complacency, hopelessness, withdrawal, aggression, secrecy, depression, neglect, disintegration, disassociation, isolation, self-blame, mistrust, worthlessness and an inability to cope. Witnesses may act out, model re-enactments, blame others, run away, hide, block out memories, fantasize, remember, and have difficulty interacting with peers. They may experience a loss of identity, developing a false self. They may feel desensitized and fragmented, and they may feel that the perpetrator is larger than life.

The community is learning, but we know children witness violence. There is a sense of hierarchy of abuse and witnessing abuse. Witnessing abuse may be perceived to be less severe, but this is not true. Children can experience the same trauma in witnessing abuse.

We are a victim society. There is a backlash, in that authorities have limited powers to intervene with children. People disbelieve children who witness abuse. The media sensationalizes abuse, and it is not labeled until it is extremely severe.




Barbour, Scott and Karin Swisher. Violence: Opposing Viewpoints. San Diego, California: Greenhaven Press, 1996.

Barden, Renardo. Juvenile Violence. New York: M. Cavendish, 1994.

Berger, Gilda. Violence and the Family. New York: F. Watts, 1990.

Bochner, Sally, Wolf Koenig and Colin Neale. Listen to Us Series. Film series, directed by Wolf Koenig and Sally Bochner. Canada: Distributed by the National Film Board, 148 min. 45 sec., 1992.

Bower, Bruce. “Survivor Syndrome: Childhood Sexual abuse Leaves a Controversial Trail of Aftereffects. pt.2.” Science News (US), September 25, 1993, vol. 144 no. 13, p. 202-4.

Island, David and Patrick Letellier. Men Who Beat the Men Who Love Them: Battered Gay Men and Domestic Violence. New York: Harrington Park Press, 1991.

Jones-Farrow, Hilary. B.C./Yukon Society of Transition Houses, Co-producers. What About Us? Film, directed by Hilary Jones-Farrow, written by Hilary Jones-Farrow and Judith Blackwell. Canada: Distributed by the National Film Board, 27 min. 30 sec., 1993.

Kurland, Morton L. Coping With Family Violence. New York, N.Y.: Rosen Pub. Group, 1986.

National Film Board. Campbell & Co. Communications, Co-producers. Make a Difference: How to Respond to Child Witnesses of Woman Abuse. Film. Canada: Distributed by the National Film Board, 21 min. 40 sec., 1995.

O’Neill, Patrick. “Violence and Its Aftermath: Introduction”. Canadian Psychology, April 1992, vol. 33 no. 2, p. 119-27.

Roy, Maria. Children in the Crossfire: Violence in the Home - How Does It Affect Our Children? Deerfield Beach, Fla.: Health Communications, 1988.

TV Ontario. Child Abuse 2. Film. Canada: Distributed by TV Ontario, 27 min. 1992.

Van Gijseghem, Hubert and Marie-Chantal Gauthier. “Links Between Sexual Abuse In Childhood and Behavioural Disorders in Adolescent Girls: A Multivariate Approach.” Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, July 1994, vol. 26 no. 3, p. 339-52.


"Follow Site Web Ring"

I don't like when
people hit other.











I think it is scary!
Myles, age 11












Don't let the anger and
mistake pass on!!!

Care for them,
don't abuse them!
Make a new generation.












Please stop the violence
and the wars.











Abuse is not the way.

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*All Rights Reserved
copyright (1991-2012)

*All Rights Reserved
copyright (1991-2012)