Children who witness deadly domestic abuse can be deeply scarred - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Children who witness deadly domestic abuse can be deeply scarred

Local deadly domestic abuse incidents where children were in the residence when the fatal violence occurred have made news headlines of late. Experts say children who witness such traumatic events can be scarred for life if they do not get the appropriate counseling.

Jefferson Parish authorities said when 43-year-old Pedro Alberto Monterros-Navas allegedly bludgeoned his girlfriend to death in a Metairie apartment over the weekend, five children were in the house.

Two of them ran to neighbors and Monterros-Navas fled with three of his children. He was found in a trailer park in Texas and arrested. The children with him were found safe.

Earlier this month in Kenner, police said Lyndell DeSilva, 38, was shot and killed by his estranged wife after he allegedly entered the house with a gun and pistol whipped his wife. She then got another gun and shot DeSilva, according to police.

The wife's four children were at the residence at the time, but were unharmed.

"We know that children who witness violence among their parents, or among adults that it can have really long term impact," said Paulette Carter, MPH, LCSW, and President and CEO of the Children's Bureau of New Orleans.

Rebecca Rainey is program director at the Metropolitan Center for Women and Children. She said witnessing such violence can leave an indelible mark on children.

"We see kids as young as four, I mean, they remember everything. They're sponges, they know what happened. They know it was wrong," stated Rainey.

Carter, Rainey and others said immediate counseling is imperative. Often children are conflicted in their emotions.

"There's feelings of guilt that they're not able to keep them from fighting. There are conflicted feelings, this is somebody I love, but yet they're beating up my mom," Carter said.

Sarah Albert is a counselor with Family Service of Greater New Orleans.

She has counseled many kids in New Orleans who witnessed deadly violence to people close to them.

"It can cause post traumatic stress in the children that definitely needs to be treated," said Albert.

Albert said behavior can reflect the trauma they have experienced.

"Anger toward others, it could be behavioral difficulties in school, fighting," Albert said.

And for children who witnessed a parent being killed by someone who was supposed to love them, the healing process can be protracted and challenging.

"They feel like they've lost that other caregiver. Essentially, now their family life is completely disrupted," said Carter.

She said children can also develop flawed views about what relationships should be like.

"Sort of distorted thoughts about how relationships should be, that violence is a part of being intimate with somebody or a part of loving somebody," said Carter.

"Over half of the children who witness domestic violence are also physically abused themselves. It definitely has an effect on their trusting of adults, their treatment of the opposite sex as they get older," said Rainey.

Rainey said if you meet someone who quickly becomes possessive, wanting to monitor and control your activities, and who seems overly serious about the nature of the relationship, that is a red flag that should not be ignored.

Albert said when she works with children, she focuses on making them feel safe first and then works to get to open up about the abuse they witnessed.

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