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Obviously, it is very upsetting for children to see one of their parents (or partners) abusing, attacking or controlling the other. Younger children may become anxious. They may complain of tummy-aches or start to wet their bed. They may find it difficult to sleep, have temper tantrums and start to behave as if they are much younger than they are. They may also find it difficult to separate from their abused parent when they start nursery or school. Older children react differently. Boys seem to express their distress much more outwardly, for example by becoming aggressive and disobedient. Sometimes, they start to use violence to try and solve problems, and may copy the behaviour they see within the family. Older boys may play truant and start to use alcohol or drugs (both of which are a common way of trying to block out disturbing experiences and memories). Girls are more likely to keep their distress inside. They may become withdrawn from other people, and become anxious or depressed.

They may think badly of themselves and complain of vague physical symptoms. They are more likely to have an eating disorder, or to harm themselves by taking overdoses or cutting themselves. They are also more likely to choose an abusive partner themselves. Children of any age can develop symptoms of what is called 'Post-traumatic Stress Disorder'.

They may get nightmares, CHILD REN O flashbacks, become very F ANY A GE MA jumpy, and have headaches Y DEV ELOP and physical pains. POST TRAUM Children dealing with ATIC S T R domestic violence and abuse ESS D ISORD ER often do badly at school. Their frightening experiences at home make it difficult to concentrate in school, and if they are worried about their abused parent, they may refuse to go to school.

ARE THERE ANY LONG TERM EFFECTS? As adults, children who have witnessed violence and abuse are more likely to become involved in a violent and abusive relationship themselves. Children tend to copy the behaviour of their parents. Boys learn from their fathers to be violent to women. Girls learn from their mothers that violence is to be expected, and something you just have to put up with. However, children don't always repeat the same pattern when they grow up. Many children don't like what they see, and try very hard not to make the same mistakes as their parents. Even so, children from violent and abusive families may grow up feeling anxious and depressed and find it difficult to get on with other people.

By making sure that domestic violence and abuse do not remain a shameful secret for the child is the first step. Professionals working with children should therefore keep this in mind when working with children whose behaviour is disturbed and distressed. For the more serious long-term effects of domestic violence and abuse, parent and child treatments are available, as are individual treatments and group treatments for children with issues such as Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. Children are better able to cope and recover when they get the right help and support, for example from other family members, peers, school. Some children find it helpful to speak to a professional (like trained counsellors). It is not uncommon for victims of domestic violence and abuse to take a long time to recognise what is happening. For some families, domestic violence and abuse are a "normal" part of family life. Even when children realise that the situation is wrong, shame can make it difficult to speak out.


However, having a trusting relationship outside the home can increase the chances that someone affected by domestic violence and abuse will manage to talk about their experience. Sharing the secret with someone outside the family is the first step in breaking out of the cycle of violence and abuse. Professionals including doctors, nurses, health visitors, teachers and social workers are trained to keep watch for signs of domestic violence and abuse. You can always talk to them and they will work with you and other professionals to keep you and your children safe. In many areas, specialist domestic violence organisations can offer support. Remember, the most important thing is to keep yourself and your children safe. Domestic violence and abuse is a crime, so don't hold back from involving the police. Once out of the domestically violent or abusive relationship, practical help may be needed from professionals like social workers or solicitors. They will be able to help with finding a place to live, dealing with money problems, and making contact and school arrangements for the children.

Source: The Royal College of Psychiatrists’ Child and Family Public Engagement Editorial Board (CAFPEB).




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Taxes are being used to fight rather than solve homelessness across the country; it’s making life more difficult for those who are unhoused, and isn’t cheap on the taxpayer either. It costs taxpayers $31,065 a year to criminalize a single person suffering from homelessness — through enforcement of unconstitutional anti-panhandling laws, hostile architecture, police raids of homeless encampments, and just general harassment. The cost of providing them supportive housing — $10,051 per year. Multiple reports over the course of the decade have said the cost of criminalizing homelessness surpasses what the cost of housing and helping these people would be. Florida, though, continues to be guilty of putting vast amounts of tax dollars towards this criminalization.

The Tax Cost of Arresting A report by Rethink Homelessness in 2014 looked at Central Florida counties Seminole, Orange and Osceola. They analyzed the costs of “arrest, incarceration, medical and psychiatric emergency room use and inpatient hospitalizations” for a cohort of about 30 chronically homeless individuals in each county — a total of 107 throughout. They found in Osceola county alone, over ten years, 37 chronically homeless people were arrested 1,250 times, or about four times per person per year. The booking cost of each arrest was $104, costing taxpayers $130,000; the arrests led to 61,896 days of incarceration at a daily cost of $80, costing the community $4,951,680; this totaled to $6,417,905 over ten years, or $641,791 per year for those 37 people. Cycling these people of all three counties through this system was costing the counties $31,065 per person per year — almost the exact cost of paying each person $15 an hour for a full-time job. The cost of supportive housing, giving these people a place to live and the help they need, whether medical or with finding a job, would have been far less though at an average of $10,051 per person per year, “a community cost reduction of 68%,” the report continued. Utah is a famous example of this supportive housing working, having brought their chronically homeless population from 2,000 people in 2005, to less than 200 in 2016.

The Cycle of Jail & Homelessness The cohort of unhoused in those Central Florida counties were arrested repeatedly, not just once though. They cycled in and out of jail for the same offenses, no better off. According to a 2013 study — Jail Incarceration, Homelessness, and Mental Health: A National Study — this is a cycle of incarceration, and it can perpetuate itself. A loop of jail time and homelessness, the report says, “Incarceration has been noted to increase the risk of homelessness” as it can weaken community ties, limit employment opportunities, and make it more difficult to get public housing.

“This bidirectional association between homelessness and incarceration may result in a certain amount of cycling between public psychiatric hospitals, jails and prisons, and homeless shelters or the street,” the report elaborates, supporting the same findings as Rethink Homelessness. Part of the source of this cycle of incarceration are the laws and different forms of enforcement by the police and city that criminalize homelessness. They can be subtle, used when a direct arrest may not be possible, and put more costs to the taxpayers and away from more long-term solutions.

THE STATE'S HOSTILE SOLUTIONS A 2017 report, Tent City USA by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, elaborates — initially referring to incarceration costs — that “cities also spend thousands of dollars on fences, bars, rocks, spikes, and other ‘hostile’ or ‘aggressive’ architecture, deliberately making certain areas of their community inaccessible to homeless persons without shelter.” A passive form of enforcement, hostile architecture is metal bars dividing benches, bolts on stone steps, spikes or stones cemented on ledges or on the ground — ploys targeting the homeless, aiming to take away the few choices they have for sleeping and forcing the taxpayers to unwittingly pay for it. One Florida example was in West Palm Beach in 2019. A city events venue played loops of the children’s songs “Raining Tacos” and “Baby Shark” all night long to drive away the people who would sleep there at night, The Palm Beach Post reported. “[Customers] shouldn’t have to trip over bodies when they or community events staffers come to set up at 5 a.m., or when caterers or a bride leave at midnight,” Leah Rockwell, the Parks and Recreation director, told the Palm Beach Post in defense of their tactic. “We are not forcing individuals to stay on the patio of the pavilion to listen to the music,” she elaborated. Cost-wise, Santa Cruz, California spent $1,000 per speaker box for a similar solution where they emitted a high-pitch sound under a local bridge to deter loiterers. There are still many city ordinances that are more direct — criminalizing urinating in public or sleeping in public parks for example. But the Tent City USA report continues that more outreach and alternatives for the unhoused is the better solution and that neither direct nor passive criminalization is necessary.

“Many communities state they need criminalization ordinances to provide law enforcement with a ‘tool’ to push people to accept services, but providing outreach backed with resources for real alternatives is the far better, proven approach,” the report said. An example given is when Miami changed their police officer’s approach to handling homeless and mental health issues. It made such an impact, the White House took notice in a press release on “Disrupting the Cycle of Incarceration” in 2016. “Miami-Dade, Florida found that 97 people with serious mental illness accounted for $13.7 million in services over 4 years, spending more than 39,000 days in either jail, emergency rooms, state hospitals, or psychiatric facilities in their county. In response, the county provided key mental health de-escalation training to their police officers and 911 dispatchers.” It continues that over five years, the Miami-Dade police responded to 50,000 calls for people in mentalhealth crises, but made only 109 arrests, “diverting more than 10,000 people to services or safely stabilizing situations without arrest.” This led to a drop from 7,000 to just over 4,700 in the jail population, allowing the county to close a jail and save an additional $12 million a year.

Cost-effective and impactful for unnecessary arrests of mentally ill people, but still allowing more passive and subtle criminalization, the Miami police continued to harass the unhoused with different tactics — like arresting people for sitting on a dairy crate and dropping the charges within a day. According to research by the Miami New Times in 2018, “In the past three years, Miami-area police have sent at least 49 people to jail for ‘unlawful use of a dairy case.’” They say that, in the same time frame, 58 people were arrested for possession of a shopping cart. These are minor charges commonly used to “hassle” homeless people, they said.

““Punishing people for sitting on a milk crate is just another way Miami is criminalizing homelessness,” Jackie Azis, staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, told Miami New Times. They continue that, according to activists, “the arrests cost taxpayers, clog jails, and do little to ease homelessness in Miami,” as well as being charges that are usually dropped by the morning. Criminalization by costly, superfluous arrests, easily dropped charges, subtlety and targeted laws are all attacks on the homeless, a criminalization of basic human needs, and a costly endeavor to the town, city or state. But another common tactic of police enforcement — that unwittingly racks up taxpayer costs as well — leads to the destruction of irreplaceable documents and private property of thousands of unhoused people: homeless encampment sweeps. “On June 22, 2011, the City of Titusville [Florida] raided and systematically destroyed homeless encampments located on private property in wooded areas around the city,” according to the Tent City USA report. This was in preparation for the some million people expected to come to Titusville for the launch of NASA’s final space shuttle. “The City showed up, with no notice to the homeless residents of the community, many of whom were veterans, and bulldozed the camps.

The City then disposed of all property it seized at the local dump, some of which was irreplaceable,” the report said. This police raid destroyed one unhoused veteran’s American flag, urn containing his father’s ashes, and his Veterans Affairs paperwork. The report repeats that “encampments exist because of a lack of suitable housing. Clearing encampments without notice or provision for appropriate housing solutions simply exacerbates the problems.” This specific example of Titusville in 2011 led to two federal lawsuits being filed on behalf of seven of those who were living in the encampment, ending with a settlement and the city providing “monetary damages” to them. Tax dollars went towards paying for police to destroy these people’s property, fighting them in federal court, and then paying them a settlement in the end. These examples of harassment, criminalization and costs racked up by the state are not from a lack of possible or cost-viable solutions. As the Central Florida report elaborated, it is a much cheaper solution to give permanent supportive housing to homeless individuals than pay the legal costs of constant arrests and convictions, and Housing First is one such stated solution.

HOMES RATHER THAN ARRESTS According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH), Housing First is a “homeless assistance approach that prioritizes providing permanent housing to people experiencing homelessness, thus ending their homelessness…,” with one approach within Housing First being this concept of permanent supportive housing. The concept is supported by many organizations, including the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness — the only government agency solely tasked to end homelessness — and defended as a costeffective solution as recently as December 2020 in a study by the Blue Cross Foundation.

The study used data from the Massachusetts’ Medicaid program (MassHealth) to analyze the cost benefits of Housing First. They found that those helped by Housing First “were found to have significantly lower health care resource utilization” than those who weren’t, and also “used relatively more mental health care services and relatively less emergency care.” A major source of homelessness is rooted in the basic problem of housing that’s unaffordable in the first place, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness. They state that “leading housing advocates report that 11 million households spend more than one-half of their income on rent,” and a recent Harvard report says “38.1 million households spend more than one-third of their income on housing.”

According to The National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), a non-profit that aims to end the affordable housing crisis through policy and data research, anything upwards of “the generally accepted standard of spending no more than 30% of gross income on rent and utilities,” is considered unaffordable housing though. “Too many families in both categories are an unexpected bill away from sliding into homelessness,” the Alliance said. There are many reasons as well for someone to become unable to afford bills and become homeless. One small study of 32 unhoused people across South Florida found medical debt to be the leading cause of their homelessness. Mental health affects about 20% of all American as of 2019, and The National Coalition for Homelessness says the general effects of various mental illnesses “disrupt people’s ability to carry out essential aspects of daily life,” as well as

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The National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice, a team of national experts tasked with assessing the impact of COVID-19 on the justice system, recently estimated that in the United States, domestic violence incidents increased 8.1% on average following stayat-home orders. Worldwide, the United Nations estimates there was a 20% increase in domestic violence incidents across its 193 member states during the 2020 COVID-19 lockdowns. We are criminologists with expertise in domestic violence and policing, respectively. To understand whether and how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted calls for help for domestic violence in the U.S., we examined short- and long-term trends in 911 calls about domestic violence after stay-at-home orders in five U.S. cities and one county: Cincinnati, Ohio; Montgomery County, Maryland; New Orleans, Louisiana; Phoenix, Arizona; Salt Lake City, Utah; and Seattle, Washington. In five of the six places—all but Cincinnati —pandemic stay-at-home orders increased domestic violence-related 911 calls. But 911 calls tell only part of the story about how the pandemic affected calls for help for domestic violence. Another forthcoming study shows that emergency hotlines that provide crisis support to victims of domestic violence also saw a sharp uptick in calls.

In five of the seven cities we examined— Baltimore, Maryland; Cincinnati; Hartford, Connecticut; Salt Lake City and St. Petersburg, Florida—emergency hotlines experienced an increase in calls in early March 2020. We estimate that because of the pandemic, the emergency hotlines collectively received 1,671 more calls from March to October 2020 than they would have if not for social distancing during the pandemic. Experts expected the increase in domestic violence victims seeking help last year. Victims and their children were forced to spend more time with their abusers. They were cut off from support systems like school, work and church. Times were stressful and uncertain. And when the pandemic is over, victims of domestic violence and their children will continue to need help.

PANDEMIC MAKES VICTIMS' PLIGHT WORSE According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four women will experience domestic violence victimization in her lifetime. Women stay with abusers because they have nowhere else to go. In the best of times, women who experience domestic violence face an increased likelihood of being unemployed or underemployed, struggle to find safe and affordable housing and face a higher risk of eviction. Since women make up two-thirds of the lowestpaid workers in the U.S., those who seek to leave an abuser may have little chance of moving out. The COVID-19 recession has put more women in this precarious, dangerous position. They comprise the majority of employees in child care, fast food, cleaning services and hair and nail salons. Women in these jobs were always struggling to pay their bills and support their families, but because of COVID-19, their jobs are disappearing altogether. Housing authorities and landlords often have "zero-tolerance" crime policies—so when a victim of domestic violence calls 911 to seek help, they risk being evicted. And since eviction records can make people ineligible for public housing, this leaves fewer options to escape abusive relationships, continuing the cycle of violence and trauma for women and their children. There are federal and state protections against evicting victims of domestic violence, but few victims are able to secure their housing rights.

HELP FOR THE FUTURE The economic problems associated with domestic violence have never been easily or quickly solved. The pandemic may well mean even fewer women will be able to leave their abusers. In the years ahead, these victims and their families will need significant financial, legal and housing support. In March, Congress approved a US$1.9 trillion stimulus bill, which included $24 billion to help stabilize the child care industry, $15 billion for child care subsidies and $450 million for domestic violence services. This money will undoubtedly help some victims leave their abusers. More recently, the U.S. House of Representatives passed HR 1620, a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act which provides resources and legal protections for women who suffer domestic violence. HR 1620 is currently awaiting consideration in the Senate. Among other provisions, HR 1620 would prohibit firearms purchased by individuals convicted of domestic abuse or stalking. Firearms are used in 3.4% of intimate partner violence incidents—meaning over 4.5 million women will be threatened with or victimized by domestic gun violence in their lifetime. When guns are used during domestic violence incidents, the attack is more likely to be deadly than if the abuser uses some other type of force.

CHANGING THE SYSTEM Meanwhile, highly publicized incidents of police violence have led to widespread calls to redefine what police do and how they do it. In the midst of the increase in calls for help by victims of domestic violence, "reimagining policing" could include discussions of how police and victim service agencies can better use data to support coordinated community responses to domestic violence. For example, police often hold mistaken beliefs about domestic violence. Studies show many officers believe that responding to domestic violence calls is unusually dangerous when in fact, our research shows that officers are significantly more likely to be assaulted or injured when responding to nondomestic incidents. Law enforcement agencies might consider offering more training to police on domestic violence incidents, eviction prohibitions for victims and trauma-informed interviewing techniques. While victim service agencies are important for what's called safety planning—where abuse survivors brainstorm with advocates about how to stay safe in a future crisis—police are still the main responders for crisis intervention and welfare checks. While much attention has rightly focused on the increase in calls for help for domestic violence during the height of COVID-19, the pandemic has also highlighted longstanding limitations in responses to victims when they seek help. The problem isn't new— it's just getting bigger.