School is a safe place
As summer ends and school begins, it is important to remember the children who have witnessed or been exposed to violence all summer long.

School could be their safe place providing them with a normal routine and regular meal. When most people think of school they immediately think of education, but sometimes it is a beacon of hope for children who have been in constant fear.
When considering these children, please be aware of certain behaviors that may occur in the classroom or at school. Children who have been exposed to violence may become very anxious or fearful of loud voices or noises. They may be scared to ask for things that they need or tell someone that they need help because they feel powerless. They also may lash out and be disrespectful, show aggression, or call names because they have witnessed this at home, and it is their normal. The most important thing to do for a child who is experiencing violence at home is to listen. Try doing some of the following: Listen to what they are saying without judgment, give them reassurance that it is okay to talk about it, help them re-frame behaviors at school, and link family to services.
Back to school can be a very stressful time for all of us, but it can be especially stressful for a victim who has no access to finances. Financial abuse is another method of power and control. Victims of domestic violence are sometimes forced to ask for money or do degrading things for money just to ensure that their children have food. Buying new clothes, shoes, and school supplies can turn into a huge fight. They may try to salvage what they can instead of ask for money and be abused for asking. Please remember this when a child shows up that first day without all the items on the list or in scuffed shoes from last year.
Domestic violence affects everyone, but it especially affects children. The children who grow up in homes with violence are more likely to be abused or neglected themselves. Victims of violence do not intentionally allow this to happen. Most victims try to shield their children as best they can from the fighting, but children see the aftermath. They see their parents avoiding each other, they see the holes in the wall or broken furniture, and they see the pain and fear in their parents’ eyes.
Children who witness domestic violence have a greater potential of becoming victims or abusers in their relationships as well. It is so imperative to get children access to counseling. They need to understand that they have so many other options. Linking them to resources could change their lives drastically. Sometimes children never get the chance to go to counseling, but it only takes one positive, caring adult in their lives to start that healing process. Listening compassionately to their concerns and helping them process their emotions goes a long way to ensuring a future without violence. Please remember this caring adult could be any of us such as: a teacher, a school bus driver, a custodian, a librarian, a neighbor, or a family friend. Never be afraid to listen to the thoughts, stories, and worries of a child.
If you or someone you know is a victim of intimate partner violence, Crisis Services of North Alabama can help. We provide free, confidential support to victims of sexual assault and domestic violence at our Jackson County location. For more information or assistance please contact us locally at 256.574.5826, on our 24 hour HELPline at 256.716.1000, or visit our website at Crisis Services of North Alabama serves Jackson, Madison, Morgan, and Limestone counties. We provide crisis counseling, case management, support groups, court and legal advocacy, as well as a number of other services.

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