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Tuesday, October 24, 2000

Hawaii State Seal

Abuse of wives
carries over
to kids

A Hawaii study shows
children suffer when such a
situation continues

By Treena Shapiro

Abused mothers need to be made aware that trying to keep their families together at any cost can psychologically damage their children, according to a report released today by the state Attorney General's Office.

Many of the 25 mothers studied said they remained in abusive relationships to maintain a family tie with their children's fathers, according to Paul Perrone, chief of research for the report on "Domestic Violence in Hawaii: Impact on Mothers and Their Children." They finally left because of emotional degradation and concern for their children, he said.

The report is expected to be available for reading on the Web at

"The message needs to go out that whatever the perceived benefits are as for staying with a perceived abuser, those benefits are outweighed by the psychological, emotional and physical effects on victims and their families," Perrone said.

About half the mothers and children in the study suffered from posttraumatic stress disorder as a result of abuse. Mothers who suffered posttraumatic stress had children who dissociated themselves from their environments, which could affect behavior away from the home, the report said.

However, while the mothers studied recognized that their children's presence in violent situations could have negative psychological repercussions, only one-third sought psychological services for their children.

For this reason, the study recommends early individual assessment be sought for children who witness abuse. "We need to do this systematically," Perrone said. Instead of just initial police intervention, a domestic violence response team should also be present at earliest contact to screen for acute stress disorder, a precursor to posttraumatic stress disorder.

Until this study, "the only attention had been on holding the mothers accountable for not protecting their children and allowing them to live in violent situations," said Nanci Kreidman, executive director of the Domestic Violence Clearinghouse and Legal Hotline.

Abused mothers have traditionally been punished for not removing their children from abusive homes with threats of losing their children, accusations of alienating the children's father or being named accessories to the abuse. "The emphasis needs to be shifted, to see that battered women who are mothers are doing all they can and are aware that it is serious for their children," Kreidman said.

Women need to be given the tools and resources to get out, get safe and get their children to safety, Kreidman said. "Leaving is the most dangerous time.

"Most women who are killed are killed in the act of leaving."

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