Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Children Need Help, Too, Experts Say

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Children Need Help, Too, Experts Say

Article excerpt

Like their parents, Sydney and Justin Simpson now join the victims of domestic abuse in this country.

Researchers say family violence occurs in 3 million to 4 million homes in the United States, and they estimate that 3.3 million children and teen-agers may be witnessing that abuse.

Their mother fatally stabbed, their father charged with her murder, Sydney, 9, and Justin, 6, have been enveloped by an extended family and apparently shielded from the publicity. But the effects of domestic violence on children caught in the cross-fire have been well-documented.

"Those two little kids are in serious need of major treatment for them not to be scarred for life," said Elaine Fisher, executive director of Parents Anonymous in Maryland. "I see it all the time. What's shattered is the child's sense of safety and a sense of self-esteem."

The coordinator of the Denver-based National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Rita Smith, said, "The hardest thing for them is going to be reconciling the fact that they love their father with what potentially he might have done."

O.J. Simpson has pleaded not guilty in the slayings June 12 of his former wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Lyle Goldman.

No one can presume to know how the children are faring; they are in the care of their maternal grandparents. What the children may have witnessed of their parents', at times, abusive relationship also is unknown. During O.J. Simpson's arrest in 1989 for beating his wife, Sydney would have been a preschooler and Justin still in diapers.

But, according to studies of battered women, anywhere from 68 percent to 87 percent of their children witness the abuse. If a child does not observe it, he or she instinctively knows it is happening: They wake to shouting in the night or their mother's blackened eye in the morning.

"Kids who witness violence are really `at-risk' kids for developing emotional and behavioral problems: more anxiety, less empathy, less self-esteem and more depressive symptoms," said Diane Davis, a psychologist who runs group therapy sessions for children at the Domestic Abuse Project in Minneapolis. …

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