And being caught in the middle of the violence can scar children, even if they are not physically assaulted. Fresno is overwhelmed with domestic violence; in the past year there were more assaults that left victims seriously injured or traumatized than in prior years.

Children exposed to domestic violence react to the experiences in different ways, but studies show the effects can be devastating and long lasting. About 40 percent of children in homes where there has been physical violence have mental illnesses, such as depression, anxieties and conduct disorders. Brain development in the very young child can be affected. Physical health can be compromised as well, with children more likely to have asthma, upset stomachs and other ailments.

Exposure to severe physical violence – punching, beating, shoving, threats with a gun or knife or use of a weapon – can also trigger Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in children, with the same effects as seen in combat veterans. Some studies have found as much as 50 percent of elementary-school-age children in shelters show signs of PTSD.

Only about 20 percent of children are resilient to the stresses of domestic violence, says Sandra Graham-Bermann, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan who has studied the effects of violence on children for 30 years. Domestic violence is “toxic” to young people, she says.

Read the full article at The Fresno Bee.