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Whether a child is a victim of, or witness to, domestic violence, the trauma leaves an imprint on their emotional, psychological and physical wellbeing. Research suggests ongoing exposure can even impact brain development and “hardwire” children in ways they may be dealing with into adulthood.

As Domestic Violence Awareness Month draws to a close, here are some resources available to  parents and caregivers helping children cope and heal.

Throughout Massachusetts there are 13 child witness to violence programs offering counseling services as well as the Massachusetts Child Trauma Project, which matches kids with therapists statewide.  (http://www.machildtraumaproject.org/)

In addition to these resources, there are 37 community-based domestic violence service organizations for adults and children. Safelink is a free, 24/7 statewide domestic violence hotline operated by Casa Myrna and is a resource to anyone affected by domestic violence. Callers can be anonymous and conversations, confidential. (http://www.casamyrna.org/safelink-home/)

It’s crucial that parents get the support they need so they can actively participate in their child’s healing process.  The following can go a long way in building resiliency and reassuring kids they are safe:

-Maintaining connections to family and friends

-Participating in extra-curricular activities

-Encouraging a strong cultural identity

-Affiliating with a supportive religious or faith community

-Access to health care

-Stable housing

-Economic stability

To learn more about what parents and caregivers can do for children who may have experienced domestic violence, the Promising Futures initiative has an informative brochure, 8 Ways to Support Children. (http://promising.futureswithoutviolence.org/files/2012/08/Everyday-Gestures-Brochure.pdf ) If a family is working with the Department of Children and Families (DCF), social workers will assist with identifying local resources and services.

Domestic violence can happen to anyone, regardless of race, age, sexual orientation, religion, gender, socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels. When it starts, it’s not always obvious. Your partner’s behaviors—telling you that you never can do anything right, discouraging you from seeing friends and family, controlling where you go and what you do- may seem insignificant before you realize they are hurtful and dangerous to you and your children.

Anyone who suspects a child is being abused or neglected as the result of domestic violence, or for any reason, should call the DCF child-at-risk hotline any time of the day or night— 1-800-792-5200.

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