During a supervised visitation at a Sacramento church, 39-year-old David Mora killed his three daughters, ages 13, 10 and 9, before taking his own life. Her mother described the father of her daughters as a violent man who had threatened her with death.
Even though Mora was forbidden to use weapons, he got hold of a weapon with which he ended the lives of his daughters. Court documents revealed that the minor’s mother lived a history of violence and fear for 15 years, which led her to obtain a restraining order in May 2021 so that the father of her daughters did not approach her. her.
This tragedy led several experts on the subject to question the impact of domestic violence on minors during the video conference “Children experiencing violence – breaking the generational cycle”, organized by Ethnic Media Services.
“The impact of domestic violence on minors has not been identified by the governor and attorney general as a problem, in part because they are viewed as mere bystanders, not victims,” said La Tonya Wood, director of clinical training. from the psychology program at Pepperdine University. But she emphasized that domestic violence within the family affects everyone.
One in three Latinas have experienced domestic violence in their lifetime, but Latinas also experience the highest related rate of femicide of any other racial and ethnic group.
“Domestic violence by an intimate partner is a serious matter, but one thing is certain, the presence of a weapon in such situations makes it even more deadly,” said Shikha Hamilton, the organization’s national director of advocacy and mobilization. Brady United to End Gun Violence.
He explained that the mere presence of a firearm can threaten, intimidate and encourage abuse; and in a situation of domestic violence, it increases the risk of homicide by 500%.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that 1 in 5 homicide victims are killed by an intimate partner, which represents 15% of all violent crimes.
Hamilton pointed out that domestic violence affects 10 million people each year, and not ending in death does not mean that they do not leave physical, emotional and wound damage.
“In California in 2018, there were 166,890 domestic violence calls for help, 46% of those incidents involved weapons”.
He emphasized that much domestic violence goes unreported.
“A 2019 study found that between 2010 and 2017, homicides committed by a partner involving a weapon increased 26%.
Domestic Violence and Children
According to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, children who are physically affected in incidents of intimate partner violence are understudied.
However, Hamilton noted that based on cases brought by state courts, 1 in 4 children are witnesses to domestic partner violence, at 22%.
More serious still is that a 2019 study that examined child homicides between 2005 and 2014 found that 20.2% of all child homicide victims were killed in cases related to intimate partner domestic violence.
Of those cases, 54.3% were killed at times when the aggressor was trying to kill his intimate partner before the homicide occurred.
But in addition, firearm accidents in children who handled a weapon increased 31% at the beginning of the pandemic, compared to a year earlier.
Hamilton said they are supporting strengthening federal gun safety laws to protect all victims and survivors, including victims of stalking, survivors, people who are dating, and applicants for temporary protection orders. .
Wood said the impact on children’s mental health depends on the child’s age and stage of development when the violence occurs, as well as how often and for how long it occurs in the family.
She noted that the earlier a child is exposed to domestic violence and the longer it occurs, the more long-term difficulties they tend to have.
“For example, young children who are learning to walk, talk or be potty trained may have learning delays or problems with language, sleep problems and fear of sleeping alone at night.”
Between the ages of 3 and 5, major behavioral problems can be observed such as tantrums and aggressiveness, constant whining, stomach aches and headaches; and they can also have trouble sleeping, nightmares, sleepwalking, anxiety, and refusal to go to school.
With school-age children, this is reflected in problems with school performance and peer relationships.
They tend to be more susceptible to bullying in schools, low self-esteem, depression and a lot of anger.”
And by the time they reach adolescence, they tend to have trouble socializing and expressing their emotions aggressively.
“There is data to suggest that exposure to violence in the home is an indicator of abusive behavior, particularly among men as they become adults.”
There is also an increase in drug addiction, risky sexual behavior, depression and school dropout.
Wood said research indicates there is a high risk that children exposed to abusive relationships at home may become aggressive toward their own parents, other family members or their intimate partners. Although she specified that this does not necessarily happen.
What can we do to help these children?
He indicated that we must create lines of communication with family members and victims to connect them with the different agencies and their resources.
“We have to make our schools and churches aware of these things to provide a support network for these families.”
Leiana Kinnicutt, director of the organization’s Children and Youth program Futures Without Violence, discussed protective factors for adult and child survivors that promote healing.
“An example of how to help them is to support them with affordable housing, employment, food, transportation, child care, education and refinancing.”
He said this lessens the impact of traumatic experiences and increases adults’ sense of control over their lives.
Another protective factor is social, cultural, and spiritual connections to provide non-judgmental support, link to jobs, mental health services, and connection to people with whom they share their cultural identity.
“The third favor is the resilience to teach survivors that they are more than their experiences and promote that they have an affective relationship with at least one of their parents that helps reduce trauma.”