Advocating and Supporting Children Impacted by Intimate Partner Violence

Children exposed to intimate partner violence experience fear, anxiety, depression, guilt, confusion, blame, anger and a myriad of other short- and long-term behavioral, emotional and physical issues. Children who witness violence are also at a greater risk to repeat the cycle of abuse – by either entering into an abusive relationship or becoming the abusive partner themselves.

House of Ruth Maryland is steadfast and fearless in advocating for the needs of the sometimes forgotten victims and voices, such as the children who witness violence in their homes and community around them.

The impact of witnessing violence at a young age: Story from a survivor

“I remember when I was young, my brothers and I witnessed a fight between my parents that ended up with my mother having a welt on her face. The police came and then they went away. At that time, we didn’t talk about it. I remember feeling so helpless. I asked myself, ‘Why wouldn’t anyone do anything?’” said an anonymous House of Ruth Maryland advisor and child survivor of intimate partner violence.

This survivor’s mother was abused by his father when he was growing up in the 1970s. They were an immigrant family and under a tremendous amount of stress from moving to the U.S. and acclimating to life far away from their home. His mother stayed at home to take care of him and his siblings while his father worked.

“During that time, there were not as many resources for victims,” the survivor explains, as his mother couldn’t afford childcare – let alone the money to hire a lawyer – to get out of a violent situation.

It was a feeling of hopelessness and isolation most women and their children face when trying to escape physical, mental, emotional, financial, sexual and verbal abuse.

“I wish we had the depth and breadth of resources House of Ruth Maryland provides to victims of intimate partner violence when I was younger,” the survivor added. “It would have helped us find freedom and safety.”

Giving victims – and their children – the services necessary to rebuild their lives safely and free of fear

“Witnessing and experiencing violence can have a very frightening effect on children of all ages,” said Asjoure Brown, Director of Clinical Services for House of Ruth Maryland. “House of Ruth Maryland’s comprehensive Children’s Program is dedicated to serving the needs of children both in our residential setting and in the community.” House of Ruth Maryland helps children of all ages affected by intimate partner violence through our community-based children and youth services including clinical assessments, therapeutic services and safety planning – all of which are based on trauma-informed care.

“Our therapeutic services include individual, group and family therapy utilizing therapeutic play, drama, art and stories,” said Brown. “KIDSPACE, a program developed by House of Ruth Maryland for children between the ages of 8 and 12, involves weekly sessions that address topics such as self-knowledge, self-awareness, self-acceptance, self-esteem and self-actualization in a way that children can learn, understand and apply in their lives.”

The Weinberg Child Development Center is licensed by the Maryland State Department of Education and staffed by credentialed childcare professionals. These essential staff members not only receive specialized training in intimate partner violence and trauma but also work closely with both parents and therapists in the child’s healing journey.

Supporting children and youth impacted by intimate partner violence in and across Maryland

House of Ruth Maryland’s vision is “Every community member recognizes intimate partner violence and has the knowledge and tools to respond in a way that supports victim safety and insists the abusive partner changes behavior,” said Sandi Timmins, Executive Director of House of Ruth Maryland.

One of the many ways we have honored this commitment was through the creation of the “Supporting Students Affected by Intimate Partner Violence” professional development training course for the Maryland State Department of Education. The course, which was created in a partnership with LifeBridge Health’s Center for Hope, is available to all Maryland state educators, administrators and staff serving all grade levels. The curriculum, developed by the House of Ruth Maryland Training Institute, covers the dynamics of intimate partner violence and how it impacts children and youth. Topics covered include how to identify signs of violence, requirements and relevant state laws for reporting abuse, the 10 common adverse childhood experiences relating to child abuse, neglect and household dysfunction and its effect on healthy development and how educators can support students who have witnessed or experienced violence in their homes.

“It is our mission to end violence against women and their children by confronting the attitudes, behaviors and systems that perpetuate it, and by providing victims with the services necessary to rebuild their lives safely and free of fear,” said Timmins. “Our children’s and youth services are comprehensive and we continue to evolve our programs to meet the needs of the children impacted by violence. The combination of children and youth services, therapy and daycare, coupled with our commitment to educating professionals and community members who work with children about how intimate partner violence affects their development, strengthens this vision and helps House of Ruth Maryland lead the fight to eliminate violence once and for all.”