Have you ever witnessed people arguing on the street, or in a public place?
If you have you will recall how unpleasant or distressing it is to see two people arguing, or even one person having a go at another.
Whenever I see it I realise how unattractive and ugly, witnessing such conflict is. I tend to shy away from such scenes as a result.
Now, you may have a different response, but I’m going to suggest to you that if observing people arguing in the street has little or no impact on you at all, then it may be that you have become de-sensitised to such verbal abuse and violence.
If you have, and this occurred in your childhood, depending on the frequency of it occurring, you may not even recall it happening because it is traumatising. But if it happens often then you can become de-sensitised to it and begin to see such behaviour as normal.
Children who are exposed to arguments, fights and conflict, at least initially are very frightened of what they observe. Think about it, firstly children are much smaller than adults, so to them, it’s like giants who they love and look up to, are in conflict, so it is very scary for them.
Secondly, as your parents are people that are extremely important to you and people you rely heavily on, watching them argue will be very painful and traumatising for you.
Children rely on their parents also for calmness and stability and to provide safe, nurturing environments, so to be thrust into situations which are abusive and violent will be deeply unsettling for a child who is not used to such experiences.
The effect of witnessing domestic abuse frequently means that children grow up having learnt that such abuse is normal and having normalised this belief they recreate such behaviour in their adult life with their partner/s and this cycle is perpetuated such that their children observe the same sort of abuse and are harmed in pretty much the same way as they were when they were a child.
In this way the abuse continues and children are also often harmed physically by accident and when they seek to stop the violence or protect one or both of their parents.