HELP!!! How do we help children whose mental health is at risk because of Alcoholism and Domestic Violence in the home?3:36:00 AM
|With Terry from COVAW during 16 days of Activism launch last year|
I will admit very early in this post, unlike my usual posts, that this is not a guideline but it is me asking for guidance and opening up for dialogue and solution setting. I feel burdened to write about it because yesterday and early today morning I have had two brushes with alcoholism, domestic violence and I still have recurring thoughts of their effect to children’s mental health. I will share two very close to my heart incidences that happened last week that burdened me.
The first incident was Tuesday evening. I was with one of my babies (people who I mentor) who had had a rough weekend and had masked it well. He comes from a home where there is a lot of emotional abuse from the dad which becomes physical once in a while and gets him in the mix of the physical abuse. There we were, having a lovely chat and I don’t what words triggered him but he just burst into tears.
The second incident was at around 4.30am on Wednesday morning when I was woken up by screaming and running right outside my window. My heart skipped a beat, I knew this was it, my first ever robbery at my new house. I whispered a prayer and tried to keep my head straight lest I had a seizure in the midst of panic. I have an alarm in my house and as I was about to sound it, I heard the caretaker shouting from his house and his wife responded from right under my window. I moved closer to my window (sniper style) to see if it was really her or if this was part of the robbery and there she was with her two girls bent over under my window and from their exchanges, it wasn’t a robbery (Thank you Jesus) but a ‘domestic issue’ as we have all labeled it. From his shouts and words, I could clearly tell that this man was drunk.
That scene and the sight of those two girls bent over holding their mother just made me really sorrowful and I felt really helpless because I wanted those girls to be warm, tossing and turning in their beds like every other girl their age world over but here they were under my window (you all know how cold Ngong gets) and I couldn’t even open my door because this man was standing directly across my door and man power was against us. In an instant he bent over, picked stones and started throwing them at her and the girls and it was running and screams all over again.
I live in a compound with three houses and mine is in the middle. The two homes that sandwich me both have men, big bodied men, yet none of them even tried to find out what was happening. There I was, feeling helpless and I just couldn’t stomach the fact that these kids have been running, screaming and hiding at different corners of the compound from 4.30a or even earlier. I decided to call the landlady, at least she would tell the neighbors to go out and calm the man or come up with a solution, which is exactly what happened. He calmed down, I am not sure if the other neighbors went and talked to him but it died down. As I left for my appointments around 8am, the guy is dead asleep, the children are too tired so they didn’t go to school and the wife was packing, but there have been loads of meetings in that house all week and over the weekend and she is still there. I am glad I was able to call the landlady who managed to calm the situation down but in my heart, that is temporary calmness, there is a storm brewing in those children’s minds, the storm I saw in my baby that evening. He was looking sharp, he mingled with everyone well but the storm from what happened over the weekend and what has been ongoing in their house just couldn’t let him be so he broke down. I linked him up with one of my psychologists and look forward to a positive report. I still feel burdened though, burdened that this lady is hell bent on leaving which is good, but what about her mental health, what about her children’s mental health?
Many of us, if not all of us, have either grown up with or are currently living with this issue. Alcoholism has been normalized in our households and our communities and we casually share about people who we know or are related to who drink, came home and beat up their wives and children, some go to the extent of bringing other women into the house and disrespecting the wife in front of the children or worse defile their own, not once, not twice but over and over until the children see no wrong in it. We have heard, or even contributed to, the advice given to women over and over again that they should try not to provoke their husbands, that when they get home they should be humble regardless of the position they hold out there or the amount of money they make, that their attitude is what drives the men to go out, drink and ‘lose control’…in a nut shell that it is up to the woman to make things right for herself and the children (I know that the reverse happens in some homes – women drinking and harassing the entire household) but what structures have we set out to help these women and most of all these children.
I know there are shelters for abused women, I know women in some instances can go back to their parents’ home or leave the abusive relationship, get counseling and start life anew on their own or remarry but what about the children? If the mother goes through all this and she gets well, her wellness does not entirely reflect on her children’s wellness. Children are not extensions of their parents but they are individuals who also see, feel and go through the same motions that the parents go through. They may look like they don’t understand but they are absorbing each and everything that goes on. So this lady will leave, she might get a good job, live in a better environment but that doesn’t erase the images the children have, images of running and screaming and sleeping on wet grass.
So I ask, how do we help children whose mental health is at risk because of Alcoholism and Domestic Violence in the home?