The PEACE Program provides specialized counselling and support services to children and youth under the age of 19, who have witnessed or experienced abuse, threats, or violence in their home.
The overall objective of the program is to stop the inter-generational cycle of abuse by teaching children non-violent ways of resolving conflict and by promoting the process of healing.
The impact of exposure to domestic violence on children has been documented for two decades by clinical research. Research studies show that children who witness or experience violence are at considerable risk of developing a range of physical, psychological, and behavioural problems. Exposure to violence can result in: headaches, abdominal pains, stuttering, enuresis, sleep disturbances, eating problems, acting overly responsible, poor concentration, low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, phobias, withdrawal, aggression, defiance, suicidal thoughts and post traumatic stress disorder.
Witnessing violence can result in fear, helplessness, and overstimulation of the nervous system. Domestic violence threatens children’s sense of emotional security in the home because of the threat to their own care and the integrity of the family.
There is growing evidence that children who witness domestic violence are at significant risk to repeat the dysfunctional relationship patterns that they have learned in their families. Unfortunately these children develop the belief that verbal and physical abuses are appropriate forms of conflict resolution.
It is critical for parents to become aware of the adverse effects that witnessing violence has on children. Parents need to recognize the connection between domestic violence and their children’s emotional and social adjustment. Children who have witnessed domestic violence need support and counselling to deal with their feelings and with the physical and emotional consequences of the violence.
Assessment, counselling, and support services are available to children and youth who have been impacted by witnessing domestic violence. Counselling services are designed with the age of the child in mind. For younger children play therapy is available. For more information on play therapy please refer to the article posted on the website. Counselling appointments for older children focus upon topics such as emotional health, social adjustment, safety, and self-esteem. With an objective of stopping the inter-generational cycle of abuse, children are taught non-violent ways to resolve conflict. They learn healthy ways of dealing with anger. As children receive the knowledge, understanding, and support that they need to heal, the goal of ending the cycle of violence can be achieved.