Six years old Jimmy closed himself in the bathroom for two hours when he heard his father shouting and threatening his mother. He has been a silent and fearful witness to such angry behavior of his father many times in the past. Jimmy only feels helpless and scared when his mother gets physically hurt by his father. He constantly lives with the fear that something may happen again and even he could be the target of abuse.

Not just in Jimmy, exposure to domestic violence can create a trauma experience in every single child and youth who witnesses it, and can damage their mental, social, and emotional growth. Some children learn to resolve their conflicts in violent manner, some lose the ability to feel empathy for others as keeping themselves immune to the pain their parents are undergoing becomes a means of protection from pain. Others feel socially isolated, unable to make friends as easily due to social discomfort or confusion over what is acceptable. These kids can feel emotional and physical “aftershocks” for months or even years. They can relive the event again and again in their minds, and be less able to function normally in their day-to-day lives. Some may become more aggressive, violent, and self-destructive. Children and youth exposed to violence tend to repeat violence they have experienced; they perpetuate a cycle of violence that can continue throughout future generations.

Considering these facts, many communities have come forward to help create more comprehensive systems of care to respond to the unique experiences and complex needs of such children and youth.
“Heels On The Move To Heal” (HOTMTH) has initiated programs and organized various events focusing the need to inspire hope and build confidence for life in such youth, besides supporting the organizations dedicated to this cause. “Youth On The Move To Heal” by HOTMTH promotes awareness and educates youth on domestic violence while giving them a platform to be creative to protect these silent but vulnerable witnesses to family violence.

Vani Bhatnagar