Childhood Exposure to Violence

Childhood Exposure to Violence

Researchers estimate that between 3.3 million and 10 million children are exposed to domestic violence each year. Domestic violence seriously threatens the health and emotional well being of children living in these families. The invisible and high risk group is the unrecognized children who live in the painful secret and deafening silence of domestic violence within our congregations.

Domestic violence is still the well-kept secret of millions of families, including Christian families. Although the church has been slowly acknowledging and addressing domestic violence from theological, biblical, and practical perspectives, little has been done to address the needs of children exposed to or living with domestic violence.

“One well-known fact is children who live with domestic violence are more apt to be violent children than those who do not. A less-known fact is that in thirty to sixty percent of all families where women are being beaten, their children are also the victims of abuse by the same perpetrator. A small but growing body of research also suggests that children who witness domestic violence, but are not physically abused, may suffer social and mental health problems as a result.” – UNICEF

Christ’s call to protect children

Jesus knew and understood the social and cultural oppression into which children are often born. When you take a good look at a child, you can see what its like to be a part of God’s kingdom. Childhood is special to God, so special that Jesus said, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” Just in case something was lost in His statement, Jesus made his love for children plain when he continued his statement in Matthew 18:5-6 with, “If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea.”

Involvement of the church

Because these children do not have access to safe places or services through traditional avenues such as battered women’s shelters or family therapy, new strategies and programs for identifying, intervening, protecting, and healing these children must be developed. The church is the perfect place to begin.

Too many children do not have access to or can’t make their way into the healing that is available in Christ through the church. The church can take the lead in developing cooperative community responses to children exposed to domestic violence in our congregations and in our broader community.

Children depend on their parents and guardians to provide and protect them. When protection and provision is not available in the home children should be able to find it in the people and in the house of God, where hospitality is in abundance. Another characteristic that the church is noted for and children should have access to is justice. Marie Fortune wrote, “when harm is done by one person to another, the church ought to be about justice making”. The church is called to provide support for the safety and welfare of children. We are called because our mission is to continue the liberating ministry of Jesus. Jesus also calls us to invite and receive children into a community of love and safety. We must stand and work for justice.