Can one person destroy an entire family

Domestic violence disturbs children's souls

"I often couldn't sleep at night when my father had been drinking. I knew he would then scold his mother and get loud again. He threw mother down the stairs once. She had broken her ankle and bruises all over the place. I wanted to jump up and help her, but I couldn't move. It was horrible. "

This is reported by a 12-year-old boy who was brought to us because of school problems. When he had gained confidence, he told why he often sits at school in the morning exhausted and is at home with his thoughts, always worried about what might happen there.

A 16-year-old student comes alone after a call from the class teacher. She had dialed the police emergency number when her mother's partner choked her with a scarf and the mother passed out. She would be "cut" from the whole family and accused of destroying the family because the significant other was evicted from the home by the police. He is no longer allowed to approach the apartment. The mother meets with him in secret. She was arrested in the room, which is why she came to school. At home, she is not allowed to watch TV or play computers. Everyone is "mad" at her.

In a counseling session for parents, it becomes clear that the man has hit the woman many times, once he threatened her with his gun. They don't want to part, they just want to get along better. The father loves his 4-year-old son more than anything and has never raised his hand against him. Therefore there are no problems with the child, but the son often sees the parents arguing.

Such or similar registration reasons exist if the topic "domestic violence" the background is to seek advice. Our special concern is the children who are "witnesses" of domestic violence. For a long time it was assumed that children would survive these scenes unscathed if they were not directly victims. Recent studies refute this assumption.

On the contrary: Children who witness how one parent is constantly devalued, physically injured, mentally threatened or blackmailed by the other parent or by a close relative, are also mentally injured as "witnesses" themselves. Because suddenly the people on whom they depend for their basic physical and emotional care are no longer a source of protection and security, but a cause of threat and fear. The consequences are not only so-called post-traumatic stress reactions (chronic stress reactions to body, mind and soul), but also social attachment disorders and problems in the performance area. Children often do not know how to cope with such a dire experience. Typically, people have three options for dealing with severe stress: fight, or flee, or persevere. However, all of this is only possible to a limited extent for children because they are also dependent on their parents.

Violence destroys trust.
Violence endangers the feeling of dignity.

Children have a right to a non-violent upbringing.

This means that children themselves must not be emotionally devalued or physically injured, and a non-violent atmosphere must be created in the family.

Domestic violence is not a "trivial offense" - it is a criminal offense.

It does not help children if the family tries to hide or keep silent about violence. When people resort to violence in an argument, they are helplessly exposed to their emotions. You need other ways of dealing with strong feelings and needs. Otherwise there will be strong stress reactions, mutual devaluations, emotional and physical injuries. So you have to learn how to break the spiral of violence and.
Time alone does not heal wounds. Family members who have experienced violence often need professional help. Advice centers help to learn forms of stress management and non-violent communication.
You can find our special advisory services on the Internet at:

Johannes Böhnke
Graduated social pedagogue, Cologne
Johannes Boehnke (at)