Breaking the cycle where it begins: Programs help children impacted by domestic violence

Domestic Violence Awareness

CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — To break the cycle of domestic violence, we must look at where the cycle begins.

Children are often forgotten about when it comes to domestic abuse.

Yet, abuse experts and studies show children who witness physical and verbal abuse at home are more likely to repeat those behaviors as adults.

Studies show girls are six times more likely to experience sexual abuse, while boys are 10 times more likely to become abusers.

Nicole Nordan, the YWCA counseling director, says that’s because so much of our behavior is learned.

“A child gets a distorted view of what love is. So, when it comes to sexual assault and domestic violence. Its ‘love equals this,'” Nordan said.

A team of YWCA counselors says they are here to help. They have support groups and one-on-one sessions available for children healing from abuse and trauma.

“It’s never too late to talk to somebody. To break those patterns that lead to this. Not because it’s the victim’s fault but because they can strengthen skills to realize how amazing, how strong, how brave, how beautiful inside and out they are. No matter what their partner could be saying about them and how they could be making them feel during different times in their relationship,” she said.

Nordan adds children who are exposed to abuse are more likely to have impacts that last a lifetime.

“Self-esteem and self-worth issues, as well as, boundaries, learning boundaries, and attachment. Just really wanting to feel safe and loved. They may hyper-focus in the areas that they saw the problems that they were exposed to and ignore other things. Or never get the help that they need,” she said.

Children who go without the care they need could have lasting mental health problems.

“The effects children feel from witnessing or being exposed to abuse are related to shame, blame, and guilt. How did I cause this? What did I do? That leads to adulthood. When they are in the first unhealthy relationship. Their default becomes what did I do? Because even as a child they were blaming themselves. That’s how they stay in that cycle. It’s me, I’m the problem,” she said.

Santina Proctor grew up in an abusive household. She witnessed her mother get attacked by her boyfriend nearly every day.

“As kids, you find a way to say, ‘Hey if I would have made my bed it wouldn’t have been an argument. If I would have taken out the trash it would have been okay.’ The truth is an abuser has an issue and they need help. It has nothing to do with the person that they are abusing. It has nothing to do with you as a child,” she said.

The scenes of beatings and blood still haunt her.

“There was a time he bashed her head into our glass kitchen table. It was blood just pouring out of her head,” she recalled.

Proctor said she called 911 just one time.

“I remember my mom telling me ‘Don’t call the police, you could have got me in trouble.’ That really hurt me,” she said.

To cope with the extreme abuse. Proctor believes her mother turned to drugs.

“It was a lot of trauma but it was normal. It was every day. This is what it’s like being Sandras daughter. Kind of, I guess got used to it.”

Then when she was just 7 years old, her mother died. Proctor believes drugs played a role. Unfortunately, her mother never got a chance to escape the abuse, and no one was ever charged.

“She was just everything. She was just an amazing woman who didn’t know that she was amazing. She didn’t know it. She had no idea how beautiful she was on the inside and out,” she said.

Proctor, however, broke that cycle. She went on to a career in the military and is now a teacher.

“I am the generational curse slayer for my family. Every woman on my mother’s side of the family — my grandmother, my aunt, my cousins — all have been in abusive relationships,” she explained.

Two decades after her mother’s death, she started to process the trauma through writing and short documentaries.

“When I started writing, people started reading and I realized it’s a lot of people out there that need help and an outlet,” Proctor said.

So, she created a way for people to vent on a blog. Then she started the ‘It’s Not Your Fault 91’ nonprofit organization.

“So when I started to write I said, ‘Well, it’s not my fault’ that’s what I’ll call it. It’s not your fault and 1991 is the year my mother passed away. It kind of just all came together,” she said.

Her organization offers emergency shelter and some financial help as the family transitions. She wants people to consider children are sometimes the survivors.

“I see ‘it’s not your fault’ as… it’s a voice. I think that is what I’m supposed to do. I want my mom’s name to live forever. I don’t want her death to be in vain,” she said.

Her message now…

“If you can’t do it for you, for whatever reason. That you don’t feel that you are worthy, or you can’t make it on your own. Leave for those children. The children know what’s going on. We are affected by it. It’s important to get out. You can get out.”

10 On Your Side has compiled a list of local and national resources for residents to fight and prevent domestic violence and child abuse.

In the United States, about 1 in 4 women and nearly 1 in 10 men have experienced intimate partner violence (IPV) including sexual violence, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetime, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Domestic Violence Prevention Resources

10 On Your Side is committed to help Break The Cycle of domestic violence in Hampton Roads. 

Here is a link to all of the local groups or agencies we have highlighted. The page also shares testimonials of survivors.

Here are some local and national resources for victims in need of help.

Transitions Family Violence Services in Hampton

YWCA South Hampton Roads in Norfolk

LGBTQ Life Center in Norfolk

  • Provides: Intimate partner abuse counseling and support group, safety planning, crisis intervention and education sessions. Assistance with emergency housing and legal services. Youth services and support groups.
  • 757-640-0929

Military Family Advocacy Program in Norfolk

  • Provides: Prevention of family violence, victim safety/protection, offender accountability, rehabilitative education/counseling, and command intervention
  • 757-444-2230
  • Domestic Abuse Victim Advocate (DAVA)after hours: 757-438-4180

Avalon Center in Williamsburg

  • Phone: 757-258-5022
  • Offers transitional housing, emergency shelter, youth services, legal advice, and counseling.
  • 24-hour Crisis Hotline: 757- 258-5051

Samaritan House Inc. in Virginia Beach

  • Phone: 757-631-0710
  • Offers counseling, emergency shelter placement, and safety planning.
  • 24-hour Crisis Hotline 757-430-2120

HER Shelter in Portsmouth

  • Phone: 757-485-1445
  • Offers emergency services, court assistance, shelter, employment, housing assistance.
  • Hotline: 757-485-3384

Eastern Shore Coalition Against Domestic Violence

  • Hotline number: 757-787-1329
  • Offers: an emergency shelter, 24-hour crisis hotline, individual counseling, safety planning, children’s services, legal advocacy, accompaniment during hospital visits and court appearances and support groups to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.
  • Website: 

National Domestic Violence Hotline1−800−799−7233

Virginia Domestic Abuse Hotline1-800-838-8238

About 11 million women and 5 million men who reported experiencing sexual violence, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime said that they first experienced these forms of violence before the age of 18.

At least 1 in 7 children have experienced child abuse or neglect in the past year and in 2018 nearly 1,770 children died of abuse and neglect in the United States, according to the CDC.

Prevent Child Abuse America – Coronavirus Resources & Tips for Parents, Children & Others.

Child abuse and neglect are serious problems that can have lasting harmful effects on its victims. For more information on preventing child abuse and neglect check out resources from the CDC or call The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-422-4453 for help.

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