Children who have witnessed domestic violence are psychologically traumatized and need to go through therapeutic sessions for recovery, two experienced US trauma therapists said at a two-day child trauma therapy seminar held at Taiwan Normal University.
"Many studies show that over 90 percent of adult criminals have had traumatizing childhood experiences; therefore it is critical to provide therapy sessions to help traumatized children express their feelings," said Flora Calao, a trauma therapist at the New York Asian Women's Center.
Calao has been working with Asian women since the late 1970's and has acquired knowledge about the cultures and family interactions among Asians from different countries. Nicole Calao-Vitolo, Calao's daughter, is a doctoral candidate at the California Institute of Integral Studies, who specializes in using small animals to soothe the emotions of traumatized children in counseling sessions.
Calao and Calao-Vitolo are two of the lecturers attending the seminar, which has been organized by the Taipei Women's Rescue Foundation and is co-sponsored by the Bureau of Children of the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. More than 100 Taiwanese social workers and family counselors have participated in the seminar.
Calao said that Asian women tend to be more embarrassed about domestic violence.
"Usually, Asian women have more close-knit relationships with their relatives. However, while facing physical abuse at home, Asian women bear a lot of shame and are too embarrassed to say anything to their relatives," she said. She said the only time most abused Asian women decide to seek help is when the situation at home gets totally out of hand.
Calao said a complete therapeutic program is one that provides counseling sessions for the offender, the victim and the child who has witnessed the violence. As for the main victim, which is usually the mother, Calao stressed the importance of building a strong support network.
"We will help the mother to understand how traumatized a child can be by being a witness of domestic violence, and teach her how to develop better social skills and ways to obtain help. By doing so, we hope the mother will be able to build a strong support network, knowing that she is not alone in times of crisis," she said.
Calao-Vitolo said that the way members of an Asian family in the US interact with one another depends on the generation they belong to. "For instance, the second-generation immigrants, who were born and raised in the US, are usually more vocal about things that go on in the family than those who have just moved over," she said.