Document 4C: Letter to Senator Hatch, from Julie Epperson, Coordinator of Therapeutic Services of Children of Battered Women, YWCA of Salt Lake City, Utah., 12 April 1993. Senate Hearing 103-726, 13 April 1993. Hearing Before the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, 103rd Congress, First Session on The Problems of Violence Against Women in Utah and Current Remedies, Salt Lake City, UT. Serial No. J-103-11.

                                                                         Salt Lake City, April 12, 1993.

U.S. Senate Washington, DC.

       DEAR SENATOR HATCH: First of all, I want you to know that I appreciate your efforts to address the problems of domestic violence through the Crime Control Act of 1993 (S. 8). Secondly, I want to provide written testimony relating to these individuals not often recognized as victims of domestic violence, the child witnesses of family violence.

       Each year in Utah, approximately 144,075 children witness the battering of their mother. Those children growing up with family violence witness the threats, physical assults, angry and demeaning verbal exchanges, and the resulting bruises and injuries from violent episodes. All too often, these children are also direct recipients of those abusive experiences when attempting to intervence in the family violence or as recipients of inappropriate discipline/parenting approches.

       The effects of exposure to family violence often results in significant health, emotional, behavioral, and social problems for children of all ages. These problems often require immediate attention by those of us working with the children in battered women's shelters. Although often not identified directly to family violence, these effects may be receiving treatment by professionals in health care, mental health, and educational settings. Long-term effects are evident in the generational transmission of violence. Sixty-five percent of the children growing up in abusive homes will enter into abusive adult relationships, 70 percent of the male partners in domestic violence cases come from parental and/or child abuse circumstances.

        The effects on children vary according to the age, sex, and role in the family and to the extent and frequency of the violence. Infants may often be victims prior to their birth since 25 percent of women who are assulted are pregnant at the time of the battering. Infants may experience disrupted attachments with their mother, and may suffer injuries during violent episodes due to their close proximity to their mother.

       Seventy percent of toddler and preschool age children experience mood-related problems (anxiousness, depression, anger and rage). These children are often receiving inappropriate and inconsistent parenting which contributes to emotional and behavioral problems. In addition, these children have often not received adequate immunizations and related health care.

       Latency age children often exhibit inappropriate problem solving and conflict resolution skills in social and school settings. Gender differences begin to appear in the emotional and behavioral problems these children exhibit. Girls may display excessive passivity, depressive symptoms, and withdrawal. Boys may display excessive aggression, agitation, and increased acting out. Essentially, these children are beginning to adopt the role of victim and abuser, roles learned from their parent models.

       Adolescents who are in the process of forming relationships outside of the family are at risk of establishing relationships in which violence is an acceptable means of addressing conflict. Adolescents may engage in delinquent behaviors, run away, and be abusive twoards their mother or siblings.

       Regardless of age, children have the tendency to inappropriately attribute the violence in the family to themselves. This results in feelings of excessive guilt and responsibility. As a result, children may engage in parent-like behaviors such as care-taking of siblings in an attempt to minimize the potential of conflict in the family.

       Identification of child victims and the subsequent interventions for these children is difficult. Commonly, these children are initally identified as victims by their presence in battered women shelters. Shelter settings are often the first setting in which interventions and resources specific to the issues of family violence are made avaliable to children and parents. Interventions include providing a safe place, immediate crisis interventions and consultation and referral services. Referrals may include Child Protective Services, health care, and mental health services.

       In order to break free from the generational cycle of family violence, children from violent homes need to have access to comprehensive interventions that address the issues associated with family violence. In addition, prevention and promotion programs addressing family violence would help in addressing the issues of violence on a larger social scale and in a long-term manner.

       It is my hope that this testimony will provide information on the consequences domestic violence has on the unintended victims, the children. Furthermore, if there is opportunity for you to develop or support provisions in the Crime Control Act (S. 8) that allows for greater attention to children's issues and needs, it would be greatly appreciated.


                                                        JULE EPPERSON, M.A., ATR.,
   Coordinator of Therapeutic Services of Children of Battered Women,
                                                                         YWCA of Salt Lake City.


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