The legal definition of domestic abuse focuses primarily on intimate partners, but also includes children, parents, or other household members. Abuse may be physical, verbal, emotional, sexual, or spiritual, and most often involves a combination of harmful behaviors.

Children who witness domestic abuse suffer similarly to those who experience the abuse themselves. Those who are victimized directly and indirectly historically have the greatest challenges and face the steepest climb toward healing. And the suffering touches every area of life—physical, emotional, social, behavioral, developmental, scholastic, and spiritual.

Preschool children fare the worst of any age group initially, as they have less-developed coping skills than older siblings, depend more on their caregivers, and (in a healthy home) have closer bonds with their parents. No age group thrives in an environment of abuse.

Post-traumatic effects for young children often include disrupted sleeping patterns, becoming fearful and clingy, and experiencing separation anxiety. Children exposed to domestic abuse typically experience poor concentration, restlessness and an inability to sit still, trouble sleeping alone, waking and crying out in their sleep, and nightmares.

An abuse-exposed child also experiences higher anxiety levels in than his or her peers, intrusive memories of violent events, and may avoid play or related to an assault. These traumatized children may be irritable and angry, withdrawn and detached, and exhibit strong startle reactions.

Serious disorders may include oppositional defiance, separation anxiety, depression and severe depression. Socially, physical aggression and bullying is more pervasive in abused youth and children, they spend less time with friends, worry more about peers, are less likely to have a best friend, and have lower quality friendships.

Scholastically, children of abuse have higher incidences of learning disabilities, absences, reading deficiencies, speech pathologies, and lower overall achievement. Their rate of illness and injury is also higher, often because their home environment is dangerous and caregivers tend to be more negligent. In and out of the classroom, violence is more prevalent toward peers and pets. Animal cruelty and juvenile court interactions manifest more frequently than with non-abused youth.

Hannah Grace Homes steps into the stories of young women who have experienced any and all of these forms of abuse. The work is challenging, but God is the Redeemer, and we put our trust in Him. Not every young woman will experience complete freedom from her past. We will not be deterred from sharing the love of Christ, patiently, consistently, and compassionately with each young woman of Hannah Grace Homes. We need your prayers and partnership, as we depend on the God of all Comfort to ultimately make a difference in the lives of these girls.

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