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DOR
DoR (Decât o Revistă) is an independent quarterly magazine and website publishing narrative nonfiction from Romania.
illustration of a child looking out a window
Society
Oana Sandu

Bystander Victims: Facing The Trauma Of Children Who Witness Domestic Violence

Children who live amid domestic abuse are at serious risk of long-term physical and mental health problems. It's imperative we start to look deeply at these long-term effects because violence is passed down from generation to generation. A close-up investigation from Romania.

BRASOV — “This morning, she was laughing when she told me that her tummy hurts, that her head hurts, that she feels sick." Irina, a 34-year-old mother, tells me as I sit down on the living room couch in her apartment on the outskirts of Brasov in central Romania.

She tells me about her daughter, who is in her bedroom reading an Isadora Moon book, about a half-fairy, half-vampire girl. I can feel the girl's presence through the tiny plasticine figurines around the house: dandelions, bunnies, flowers modeled in as much detail as only an eight-year-old can.

On Irina's arm, I can see a black tree tattoo, with a winding stem and vigorous, almost frightening, roots. Behind it, there is a sunset in strong shades of red and green. It's the tree of life, a tattoo Irina got this year to remind her that life has been hard for her in recent years, but she is still standing.

She's a woman who has experienced domestic violence and, six years ago, managed to get out of her abusive relationship with Maria's father. (The names of the children and mothers in the article are pseudonyms and I have used them to protect their identities.)

I came to visit them because Irina is currently looking for answers to a question that interests me too. I’m a reporter who has been documenting the impact of domestic violence for the last eight years. Irina wonders to what extent the violent incidents her daughter witnessed as a child affect and will affect her emotional and physical health.

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