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Breaking the cycle

Breaking the cycle

Family violence breaks the deepest bonds of children’s trust, but there is hope through healing.

Family violence can happen to anyone. Relationship violence touches one out of every five people in California, and nationwide the figure for women is one in four, according to a 2012 study from Blue Shield of California Foundation/Tulchin Research. 

It’s an issue with widespread reach and lifelong consequences. 

But often the people who suffer the most are children who are exposed to violence. 

Dr. Bruce Perry—an authority on child trauma and a senior fellow at the Child Trauma Academy, a Houston-based group that works to end mistreatment of children—contends that exposure to family violence actually causes a brain-chemistry shift in children. The change can affect a child’s ability to function in school and at home. 

Margaret Bayston, executive director of Laura’s House, an Orange County center to help abused woman and prevent domestic violence, says that without intervention two out of three boys who grow up in violent homes repeat the cycle and become abusers as adults.

Orange County is home to several excellent shelter and recovery programs working to bring hope and healing to families who have experienced domestic violence, including Laura’s House and Human Options. Both organizations reach thousands of children and youth with intervention and prevention programs that focus on a variety of topics including recognizing abusive behavior, coping skills, dating and domestic violence, anger management and building self-esteem. 

“At Laura’s House, our goal with education is to move toward prevention; recognizing and exploring patterns, red flags and perhaps other unhealthy relationships within their lifetime,” Bayston says. “Empowering and encouraging survivors to realize that they have options to make healthy choices for themselves and their children is imperative.”

When Vivian Clecak founded Human Options in 1981 with three other women, they were determined to break the cycle of domestic violence and work with a new generation to develop values and skills to build healthy relationships.

“Domestic violence programs are more than shelter,” Clecak says. “They offer counseling and case management programs helping women and children to heal.”

Family violence is a crime of isolation and intimidation. It can happen to anyone. If you need help or are concerned for a friend or family member, visit humanoptions.org and laurashouse.org to learn more. 

To learn more about the needs of our community and how you can help, visit ConnectOC.org.


Shelley Hoss is president of the Orange County Community Foundation. She can be reached at [email protected].

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