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December 19, 1997     Cape Gazette
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December 19, 1997
 

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10 - CAPE GAZETTE, Friday, December 19 - December 25, 1997 Domestic Violence Part III The littlest victims: silent witnesses to shattering lives Monday, Dec. 15: A Laurel woman, while arguing with her son, beat him in the head with a shoe. Before leaving for work, she told him to go to school and ask the school nurse to tend his wounds. Instead, the child went to a neighbor for help. The neighbor called police, who arranged medical treatment for the child, who required stitches in his scalp• Later in the morning, Morn was arrested for second-de- gree assault and endangering the welfare of a child. She was re- leased on $8,000 secured bond and issued a temporary no-con- tact order. The Division of Fami- ly Services placed the child in an- other home. By Nancy Katz They form an army without a leader and they have little power• Their numbers grow by the day, yet they possess no vote, and politicians rarely seek them out. These are the children who have become the silent witnesses and victims of domestic violence• Of- ten, they fall through the cracks, only to resurface later in life when they continue the cycle Of vio- lence as abusers themselves• The image of domestic violence today is of adults engaged in abuse - the aggressive hit/er and the unconsenting victim, be it man or woman• Police are called, and statements are taken. Threats and raised voices resound well into the night like some unrelenting warn- ing system, but looming in the background, not by size or choice, are the children watching and cop- ing, with their limited ability to comprehend and block out the chaos. Those who think the chil- dren will go quietly into the night may be mistaken• Statistics from the San Diego Police Department, a forerun'ner in identifying and ad- dressing the problems associated with children and domestic vio- lence, show that 80 percent of run- aways are from abusive homes; juvenile delinquents are four times more likely to come from abusive homes; 63 percent of all boys ages 11 through 20, who are arrested for homicide, have killed their mother's assaulters; 50 per- cent of the time, there is both child abuse and domestic violence in the same home, and kids from those homes are 1,000 times more likely to be abusive adults. Changing perceptions and pub- lic awareness about domestic vio- lence have channeled more atten- tion and focus toward children• Initially, the adults are the primary concern• In Sussex County, the Families In Transition Center in • Milford runs a 24-hour hot line, seven days a week. "We offer a 30-day shelter for victims, and we always make sure to tell them to bring their chil- dren," said Cindy Broehmer, the center's director• Although the center acts as a crisis intervention and education facility, when chil- dren are involved, the facility has special assistants who help with child support systems. "We have people to help the adult take a break, take care of the child when the adults need to go to court, keep the child busy with arts and crafts, discuss nutritional needs of the child with the parent, provide education on parent.ing and assist with follow-through," said Broehmer. Victims do not have to go into the facility to re- ceive assistance• They may call 422-8058• The development of any child is precarious, even in the best of cir- cumstances• Children who are victims of domestic violence are found in all socioeconomic levels, educational, racial and age groups• Living in a home where violence is an everyday part of life takes its toll. Delaware foundation awards '98 violence prevention grant The Delaware Community Foundation (DCF) announced this week that it has awarded a total of $148,000 to 10 Delaware organi- zations that are working to prevent violence against children• "Vio- lence Prevention: An Investment in Children from Birth to Age Five," has been the foundation's grant theme since 1995, and will continue until 1999. The lbundation's five-year grant program is designed to address family violence in Delaware by supporting programs that benefit children from birth to age 5. These programs prevent violence, strengthen the family and build better approaches to making chil- dren healthier and happier. The foundation has awarded violence prevention grants totaling $492,500 since 1995. The mission of the Delaware Community Foundation is to "en- courage greater philanthropic activity, to marshal resources and to act as a catalyst to benefit the people of Delaware." Founded in 1986, the foundation has enjoyed success, accumulating almost $47 in assets• The foundation awards grants to Delaware nonprofits in two cycles: programs are supported in the winter; capital needs are funded in the spring• DCF also manages permanent endowments that benefit local nonprofit organization. Underneath that silence, some statistics indicate infants may demonstrate "failure to thrive syn- drome." The effects on children up to age 4 may manifest as con- stant shaking, crying, poor sleep- ing and stuttering. And as the childrenage, the behavior will be- come aggressive, they have poor self-esteem, mistrust close rela- tionships, have conflicts about parents, become confused about right and wrong behavior, have problems relating to authority, display psychosomatic complaints and will often victimize their sib- lings and peers. In Sussex County, the Family Violence Treatment Unit in Mil- ford, is one of the places that of- fers coping skills to children in- volved in domestic violence• The unit has two child therapists - Lori Johnson, who has a masters de- gree in rehabilitative counseling and Dafne Sapp, who has a mas- ters degree in clinical psychology. Their work mainly involves work- ing with children ages 3 to 17. "The children we work with are those who have witnessed domes- tic violence or have experienced it themselves," said Sapp. "We try to make counseling a positive ex- perience for ihem. We help them learn what abuse is, what they can do about it and, very importantly, that it is not their fault• "Usually we meet once a week with them, but we try to move at their own pace. It's a place where they can talk about their feelings• For the younger ones, we do have a playroom and offer some play therapy•" The Family Violence Treatment Unit does not charge a fee and can be reached at 424- 2420. The army marches on, winding its way through society. Statistics show that children from homes where there is domestic violence have a 74 percent greater chance of committing crimes against the person. They are 24 times more likely to commit rape or other sex- ual assault• Criminal and medical costs, in addition to the costs to businesses through absenteeism, .is in the billions of dollars. Domestic violence incidents have nearly always been viewed as complex, dangerous and frus- trating by police officers, accord- ing to Anne O'Dell of the San Diego Police Department. At different times, it has been necessary for the police officer to act as peacemaker, referee and mediator• In 1996, the Delaware State Po- lice created the Domestic Vio- lence Unit. "There are three do- mestic violence officers in Sussex County, with one being on call 24 hours of the day," said Mary Ann Papili, director of the unit. "The children who witness or are victims of domestic violence Angle Moon photo Illustration Recent statistics from the FBI show that more than 3.3 mil- lion children each year witness domestic violence. are the responsibility of the police department until we can find someone to take care of them, with whom everyone is comfort- able. It may be a relative, a neigh- bor or a friend," added Papili. "With 30 to 40 incidents of do- mestic violence a week in Sussex County, we often have children waiting here," said Capt. Ron Barkauskie, Troop 7 commander• "We try to make them as comfort- able as possible." The domestic violence officer follows up with the Division of Family Services and Victim Ser- vices, interviews, and tracks the progress of the case. "Some of these incidents are Continued on page 11 - - - - "! r" coupon I I ALL RETAIL PRODUCTS I 25% OFF l I GIFT CERTIFICATES ! 15% OFF