By Olivia Buster and Sanam Parwani
In the United States five million children witness domestic abuse every year, making domestic violence a significant issue that concerns families nationwide. Violence within families is more common than people would like to believe and the symptoms are often unclear, making domestic abuse a rising issue that is often hidden under the surface.
Despite Domestic Abuse being prevalent among both high schoolers at Upper Arlington and on a national platform, it remains under the radar. Different types of domestic abuse plague households everywhere, leaving behind chaos, effecting a student’s mental health and academic performance. Although domestic abuse is not part of the curriculum for students, counselors and teachers are effectively trained to report abuse. Still, a majority of students who experience or witness abuse feel uncomfortable talking to an adult. It is necessary to work to increase awareness about abuse because recognizing signs and reporting abuse can save lives.
To recognize domestic abuse locally, 378 Upper Arlington High School Students responded to a survey with a variety of questions revolving around the topic of domestic abuse. Questions in the survey regarded awareness, prevalence, type, signs, and experience of domestic abuse. Survey results were kept anonymous to insure the safety of the students. For the purposes of this survey and article, “domestic abuse” is defined as repetitive physical, sexual, and emotional assault within a household.
What percentage of people your age do you think have experienced domestic abuse?
Approximately 400 students were asked to estimate what percentage of their peers had experienced or witnessed domestic abuse.
Overall, students categorize occurrence of domestic abuse at a median range. Students were asked to estimate the percentage of peers who have experienced some form of domestic abuse. Most students chose 10-20%, followed by 30-45%. However, domestic abuse is more common than believed. In the United States, 74% of Americans know someone who was, or presently is, a victim of domestic abuse. Sophomore Jonah Ammons recognizes that domestic abuse happens everywhere, whether we see it or not. “While abuse isn’t talked about in UA as much as it is in other districts, it definitely still happens everywhere in the world, Ammons says.
The reason why domestic abuse stays hidden is because it happens behind closed doors. Only 25% of domestic abuse gets reported because most people believe it’s a family business. Victims often begin to blame themselves and therefore do not tell anyone. Elizabeth Hughes, a counselor at Upper Arlington high school admits that domestic abuse has no boundary. “Child abuse takes place anywhere and everywhere,” says Hughes.
Domestic Abuse can be between many types of parties, such as between spouses, between parents and children, between siblings, or between extended family. These types of abuse often correlate. 5 million children each year in the United States, witness their parents commit abuse towards one another. According to Child Witness To Project, 40-60% of families who experience partner abuse, also experience child abuse. When shown different types of domestic abuse and asked which is most common, most students chose abuse between partners or abuse between parents and kids.
Which type of domestic abuse do you think is most common?
Approximately 400 students were asked to choose which type of domestic abuse was the most common, between extended family, between siblings, between parents and kids, or between partners.
While child abuse can come from strangers, most often abusers are relatives, especially parents. Some parents have faced substance abuse or mental illnesses and their children suffer as a result. Hughes recognizes that physical abuse is just one type of child abuse. “Abuse isn’t always physical. Sometimes it’s emotional, which makes it hard to quanitfy, she says.” Abuse can come in the form of neglect or it can be physical, sexual or emotional. Neglect is the failure of a parent, guardian, or other caregiver to provide for a child’s basic needs. Neglect occurs when a child lacks the food, shelter, education, or medical attention he/she needs. Abandonment of a child, or a parent’s substance abuse are both categories of neglect and both can leave a negative influence on a child as a consequence. Physical abuse results in harm or injury to a child’s body. Bruises are the most common and recognizable result of physical abuse. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men were sexually abused before the age of 18. Teenagers and children have a higher chance of being victims of sexual assault than adults. Emotional Abuse leaves a child with little to no self-worth. It can come in the form of threats, criticism, rejection or with-holding love. Out of the types of abuse, emotional abuse is the most difficult to prove because of the lack of physical evidence. “Verbal or emotional abuse is far more common but it can often be overlooked,” Ammons says. Among Upper Arlington students, emotional abuse is more common than physical abuse.
Has a family member ever verbally threatened you or another member of your family?
Approximately 400 students were asked if they had experienced or witnessed verbal threats by a family member.
Has a family member ever physically hurt you or another member of your family in any way?
Approximately 400 students were asked if they had experienced or witnessed physical abuse from a family member.
Domestic Abuse occurs in around 20% of households nationwide and the survey results reflect this same statistic. 22% reported that they had been physically abused while 29% reported being verbally threatened by a family member or witnessing it in their home. ‘We would like to believe that abuse does not happen here, but obviously that is not the case. I will say I have called child services far fewer times while working here,” Hughes says. This is Hughes’s fourth year at Upper Arlington Schools, having previously worked at both Lincoln Heights and Franklin Heights. Abuse can look like your next-door neighbor,” says Hughes.
Overall, domestic abuse is a topic that stays out of the curriculum. However, 84% of students believe that domestic abuse should be taught to us at some point in our education career.
Do you think an educational institution (i.e middle school, high school, college) should educate students about domestic abuse?
Approximately 400 students were asked if they thought domestic abuse should be included in the curriculum at some point in their education.
Ammons believes that students should learn about domestic abuse in high school. “It’s an important world issue and we need to raise awareness,” he says. While child abuse signs and it’s long term consequence is not directly in the curriculum for students, both teachers and counselors are trained to report child abuse. All teachers are mandatory reporters and are required by law to call Franklin County Child Services and make a report. “It’s never a question if we should call, it’s when,” says Hughes, “We are an advocate for students.” Hughes recently attended a professional development conference called All Ohio Counselors Conference. She attended many sessions throughout the two day conference, including an eyeopening session by Love Hurts, a non-profit organization that deals with teen dating violence and abuse. Experts are also brought in the school to help train staff on issues such as anxiety, depression, and abuse. Teachers and counselors are constantly looking for experts and keeping up to date with ways to help students.
Signs of domestic abuse vary, making it difficult for school staff and friends to suggest child abuse. Overall, students recognize this difficulty. About 84% say that it is not easy to spot a family who struggles with domestic abuse.
Do you think it would be easy to spot a family who struggles with domestic abuse?
Approximately 400 students were asked if they thought it would be easy to spot a family member who struggles with abuse.
“Abuse might be physical where you can see the black eyes or bruises, or it could be an entirely emotional abuse that you cant see, but then effects a student’s self esteem. Those things can’t always be seen,” says Hughes. Often child abuse affects a student’s mental health. Children who have witnessed or been a victim of abuse will have difficulty expressing their emotions. They have a lack of trust for adults and often feel worthless or damaged. Students begin to lose sleep, and lose an interest for school and other activities. According to HealthyChildren.org, some common signs of child abuse are failure to gain weight, attempts to run away, headaches and stomaches without a medical cause, and fearful behavior. PTSD and other mental illnesses can affect a student after growing up in a home with Child Abuse. Grades may grow worse as a result of abuse. “A teen’s home life, overall mental well-being, mental health issues, concerns all greatly impact academics. If we don’t talk about those things, then they impact academics,” Hughes says.
Even though the school has effective policies in place requiring staff to report abuse, out of the students who said they have been verbally or physically abused, half of these students say they would no feel comfortable telling anyone.
Would you feel comfortable telling a trusted adult (parent, counselor, teacher) if you were being abused in any way by a member of your family?
Three quarters of children who fall victim to sexual abuse never tell anyone. Hughes recognizes that people approach their abuse experience in different ways. “Some people might never tell another soul for fear that something were to happen at home if someone found out that they told someone. Some people might openly talk about it,” Hughes says.
However, there has been an increase in reporting child abuse, while child abuse fatalities decline. According to the American Society for Positive Care Of Children, in 2013 679,000 people reported child abuse, while in in 2014 there was an increase with 702,000 reports. Awareness for all types of domestic abuse could potentially raise the amount of reports made by witnesses of abuse. 75% of students believe that there is not enough awareness of domestic abuse at the time.
Do you think there is enough awareness about domestic violence?
Approximately 400 students were asked if they believed that there was enough awareness about domestic abuse.
When asked about domestic abuse rates in the future, Freshmen Joy Jang says, “I believe it would decrease if we do something about it. We take a stand, and stand up for those who have been abused.”
Verizon partnered with the National Domestic Abuse to create a video hoping to raise awareness about how domestic abuse effects children.
Overall, domestic abuse is an issue that will not disappear by keeping it in the dark. Domestic abuse is prevalent on a local level as well as a national level. The after effects of domestic abuse are consuming, effecting a student’s academics and mental health. Talking about domestic abuse in school will increase awareness and encourage students to speak up about issues in their family.