Children don’t need to witness to be impacted

The Gazette Opinion Staff
Published: February 8 2014 | 1:11 pm - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 3:21 am in

The Jan. 31 Gazette article (“3 dead in murder-suicide”) about Robert Livingston shooting his wife, mother-in-law, and himself noted that the couple’s girls “were in the residence at the time of the shootings but were not hurt, police said.”

The Feb. 1 article (“Police visited home 2 days before shootings”) stated, “Police … have not said whether (the girls) witnessed the killings. Police did say the children were unharmed.”

I sympathize with the difficult task of disseminating information in the wake of an unspeakable tragedy.

But to say that children are not hurt or harmed when their mom, grandma and dad violently are killed simply is not true.

To imply that the girls may not have “witnessed” the killings when they were in the same home ignores reality. Children witness family violence even if they don’t see a specific act as it happens.

In such acts of violence, kids hear parents’ voices and gunshots. They hear the ambulance and police arrive and interact with them as they enter the home. Kids see the aftermath in their homes. They experience the absence of parents and the shift in caretakers.

As Leigh Goodmark, a University of Baltimore law professor, has put it, “All of these forms of witnessing can have the same detrimental impact on children as actually watching an event take place.”

We can stop perpetuating the myth that children are not harmed by domestic violence by using more accurate language.

When we narrow the definition of “hurt” or “witnessing,” we ignore the impact of domestic violence on the most vulnerable.

Jenny Schulz

Cedar Rapids

 

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