While millions of calls arrive each year to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, one expert says these statistics are not beginning to tell the story of the often hidden victims of such abuse.
âRight now we have between 10 (million) to 20 million adults walking around who were children of domestic violence,â speaker and professional counselor Alicen J. McGowan told Center supporters this week. for Family Violence Prevention.
McGowan, author of “We Hid Under the Table,” was the guest speaker for the centre’s annual fundraising event on domestic violence, presented virtually Thursday due to COVID-19. “Domestic violence through the eyes of a child” was taped at the Greenville Convention Center on Tuesday, where a limited audience of C4FVP board members and staff gathered for National Human Rights Awareness Month. domestic violence.
Executive Director Laura King said she was embarrassed to admit that despite years of experience working with people with domestic violence, she was not really aware of the long-term effects on children.
âWe see victims who have been beaten, we see victims who have been burned, victims who have lost their teeth,â she said. âTo the side, looking at this, hidden in fear, are the children. What does it do to them?
Experience taught McGowan, a therapist for child and adult abuse survivors, the unfortunate answer to that question. Young survivors, she said, often become underachievers who turn to alcohol, drugs or other vices in an attempt to escape a painful past. Some see the cycle repeat itself in their adult lives.
On Tuesday’s recording, McGowan shared the story of counseling a parolee whose nickname was “Juice” while practicing in Illinois. The man, who had served a seven-year sentence for a violent crime, never knew his father, who died in prison. He was raised by a mother who was too drug addicted a prostitute to protect her son from abusing clients.
As a child, âJuiceâ rarely missed school because it was the only place he could rely on for food. By the age of 10, he had joined the gang that would lead him to commit crimes that ultimately put him behind bars.
âThe reason I wanted to tell you about him,â said McGowan, âwas if a person in this school system or a person in this apartmentâ¦ a person recognized a child who was hungry and ate like he had never eaten. previously – because he didn’t – or had his head down on the tired school desk, this child might have had a different life.
Thursday’s virtual presentation included the story of McGowan’s former colleague at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, a woman who grew up with domestic violence. As a child, after seeing her father kill her mother, the young girl recovered a gun that her mother had given her for protection. When his father reached out to take it, it exploded, piercing his heart.
âIn less than 5 minutes, she lost both parents,â McGowan said.
With no family to welcome her, the girl was sent to a juvenile detention center while she was still in primary school. She remained institutionalized until her adoption by a social worker during her adolescence.
Perhaps the most poignant story told by McGowan is that of the unstable marriage of Charlie, a gambling addict, and his wife, Irene, whose young daughter and son were woken up at night by the sounds of their mother. threatening their father with a knife. Like the other stories McGowan told, it started out as a third-person account, but then evolved to reveal his personal nature.
âI was 5 and he (my brother) was 4, and night after night we had to hear that, my mom and dad fighting like that,â she said. “My mother was threatening to kill him, and telling him, ‘Put away the knife’ because he was afraid she would.”
The violence in her childhood home then shifted from parents to children. McGowan remembers a classmate noticing streaks of blood on the back of her dress from where her mother had hit her with a wire hanger. The beatings lasted for years, until McGowan determined she was old enough to defend her brother.
“Didn’t bother me so much to fight, but to beat him?” ” she said. âSo one day when I’m 11, she’s going to beat him, and I was standing right in front of her between him and her. I made eye contact and said, ‘Don’t ever hit my brother again. You can beat me as much as you want, but you’ll never hit my brother again. And that was the last time she beat us.
Many of the stories are detailed in McGowan’s book, which was published last year. It was dedicated to his brother, Charles, who died in 2019 of ALS. McGowan, who recently moved from Chicago to Martin County with her husband, was diagnosed with metastatic cancer.
“These are often end products for children who have been abused,” she said of a host of physical conditions believed to be linked to previous childhood trauma.
McGowan’s second book, “We Survived Despite the System,” is due out this month.
âI want you to know that I went through this,â she said. âI wish I had a place to go.
âThis center is so important to this communityâ¦ because it gives people a place to go,â said McGowan. “It’s a safe place.”
The Family Violence Prevention Center offers family services including counseling for children, child rearing classes, supervised visits and supervised exchanges (which eliminate interaction between visiting parents and custodial parents) . The private, non-profit agency, funded by federal, state and local grants, has offices in Pitt, Martin and Washington counties.
âWe’re trying to share with the community what’s really going on under our noses,â King said. âWe have to stop the violence. We must end it in our homes and in our community.
âIf we don’t stop the violence, we are actually covering the next generation of perpetrators and victims.