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The life of the Sanchez brothers was unraveled as alleged violence between their parents made them stop their dreams. Children experiencing domestic violence at home have an increased risk of PTSD, poor health and a much higher likelihood of depression.
USA TODAY

Abuse is associated with the same risk of harm to children's mental health and learning as direct abuse of children, new research shows.

SAVANNAH, Ga. – Latrelle Huff says her twins were begotten by rape.

Now she blames domestic violence for her children's health problems.

The woman from Georgia says she has been in an abusive, in and outbound relationship for six years when she became pregnant. During pregnancy, she said, the conflict continued. Huff spent 25 or 37 weeks in bed rest, partly due to rectal bleeding, which their doctors said caused stress.

Two days after the birth of the twins in 2014, the father said that the father had made a swing against her. He held her newborn son in his hand. They were still in the hospital. Huff had just come out of the cesarean section. "He was so mad at me because my milk did not come in," said 39-year-old Huff to USA TODAY.

The boy was born with a "floppy baby syndrome" that may be attributed to abuse by the musculature. Pregnancy. Both children are struggling with health problems, including language disorders, and have spent months teaching lessons to learn how to follow the instructions.

The father denies sexually abusing or abusing Huff. He was charged with assault and battery last year; His lawyer says he completed a pre-screening program in September to avoid a conviction. In 2015, a large jury in Savannah refused to prosecute him for sexual assault.

Latrelle Huff, left is shown with her former boyfriend and her twins at the christening of the babies in 2014. [Photo: Family Photo]

New research gives scientists a deeper insight into the wide-ranging and long-lasting damage caused to domestic violence by children living in the area – including a surprising finding: abusive witnesses carry the same risk of harming the psychic Health and learning of children as direct abuse.

Brain imaging in infants shows that domestic violence – even when sleeping or in the uterus – can reduce parts of the brain and change its overall structure and affect the way its circuits interact.

Studies show that babies born to mothers who were subjected to violence during pregnancy become adults who have three times more inflammation in their bodies than those whose mothers were not. Inflammation causes cause a much higher risk of ill health and a much higher likelihood of depression.

And research also shows that these children are as likely to have a post-traumatic stress disorder as soldiers returning from the war.

Psychologist Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, former president of the Department of Traumatic Psychology of the American Psychological Association, said, "Babies are like a blank slate".

"If a mother is beaten during pregnancy, there's a chance that the baby wants to be injured, prematurely delivered, and there's a pile of other things that can happen – including the physiological programming of the hyperactive stress system known as Adult leads to inflammation, "she said.

"It's as if a soldier comes back fighting, hears a click and hits the ground."

Researchers estimate that between 4.5 million and 15 million children at home are exposed to physical violence. Verbal and emotional abuse in the home is harder to track.

Social workers, health care providers, and academics have long since tracked down the effects of trauma suffered by children in urban areas with frequent gunfire and other acts of violence. However, little has been reported outside medical journals on the impact of domestic violence on the millions of children growing up on the battlefields in their neighborhoods.

Neuroscientist Tanja Jovanovic heads the Grady Trauma Project, a research institute at Emory University in Atlanta. The risk of PTSD from domestic violence is high, because it is a "betrayal by someone who is allegedly made to a protector".

The situation is worsening, according to Jovanovic, that domestic violence often eliminates the "buffering effect of another positive adult," as the targeted adult can not comfort the children who witness it.

Psychologist Abigail Gewirtz says that domestic violence can be scarier than war. Gewirtz is director of the Institute for Translational Research in Child Mental Health at the University of Minnesota. It is "one of the most terrible forms of violence, because it happens in a place that should be considered safe," she said. "Children are completely powerless, especially very small children, they are totally dependent on their parents."

Exposure also reduces the learning potential of babies and toddlers. Alissa Huth-Bocks, Child Psychologist at Cleveland University Clinic, said The "most damaging time" is in pregnancy and in the first three years of life, when development "suffers most from the brain level".

Long-term consequences

The negative consequences last well into adulthood. Among the adversities in childhood, according to Ronald Kessler, the cause lies in the worst long-term effects.

Kessler is Professor of Health Policy at Harvard Medical School, the principal investigator of the US National Comorbidity Survey – the first national representative of the Department of mental disorders in the United States. He is Co-Director of the World Mental Health World Mental Health Survey Initiative.

"One of the long-term consequences of adolescent adversity is that they produce emotional scars that reopen when people are exposed to trauma in adulthood – which causes them to be affected by PTSD for adults," Kessler said.

For people with color, especially for African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans, the effects of trauma are often compounded, government-funded research as they more commonly suffer from systemic illnesses, racism, discrimination, and micro-attacks.

Child Trends research organization Child Trends reported last year that 6 percent of children – about 4.5 million children – had seen or heard how parents or other adults were beaten, beaten, kicked, kicked or beaten were kicked. Four percent were exposed to violence in the neighborhood or victims of victims.

The findings are based on a survey of parents about their children. In five states – Arizona, Mississippi, Arkansas, Hawaii, and Tennessee – at least 10 percent of children at home were exposed to domestic violence.

Child Trends says that parenting family violence is likely due to embarrassment or fear of inferior stigma. The research does not cover the psychological and emotional abuse, including gas fibrillation, which many women and some men said that USA TODAY was far worse for them and their children with whom they could live.

Findings by advocates of children underline a need to better detect and prevent domestic violence and better treat abuse survivors and their children in the health system, schools and courts.

Georgia, Huff's Home, is one of the states where the law recognizes the impact of domestic violence on children. The state has filed criminal charges for domestic violence that takes place anywhere in a house where children are present, not just when it happens in front of the child.

In other cases, professionals say that justice and courts come a long way to recognize the impact on children's well-being. Parents charged with or even convicted of domestic violence can in many cases receive unattended visits to their children or partial or full custody, even if children are afraid of the offender.

When parents break up in an abusive relationship, the conditions for their children can become even more risky. The nonprofit Center for Judicial Excellence, which oversees family courts, found that more than 650 children were killed by a parent from 2008 to 2018 in a "divorce, separation, incarceration, visitation, child welfare situation".

Cheryl Branch is Managing Director of SAFE Domestic Violence Housing in Savannah, California. (Photo: Jayne O'Donnell, USA TODAY)

Domestic violence crosses racial, ethnic, and socio-economic boundaries. Cheryl Branch, Executive Director of Savannah's Women's Home SAFE, says the calls she receives from abusive women at The Landings, an exclusive gated community, are just as awful as those coming from low-income clients.

She says women are afraid of leaving husbands who threaten to spend everything to gain full custody of the children. When residents return to their domestic abusers, as many do, Branch is required to notify the child protection authorities, just as it would be if a parent returns to someone who has sexually abused their child.

Huth-Bocks, The Cleveland Psychologist says the researchers' ability to study the development of the human brain has "exploded" in the past five to six years. For example, data on mental health and addiction have adverse childhood experiences or ACEs – 10 harmful experiences or conditions, including domestic violence, persecuted by healthcare professionals.

Angel and Noel Sanchez say chaos at home hurt their grades and destroyed their dreams of playing college football. [Photo: Sandy Hooper]

Generations of Violence

In San Diego, the children of the now divorced Eric and Yadira Sanchez – Angel, Noel, and their 15-year-old brother – say they can vividly remember When they were still young, she visited the home of her maternal grandparents.

They talk about how their grandmother beats closet doors and throws drinking glasses. She and her grandfather would beat themselves, they say. The grandparents were not available for comment.

Later, Angel and Noel said, watching her mother chase her father with a kitchen knife and hit a piece of wood against his back. In December 2011, police arrested Yadira Sanchez for a crime involving a deadly weapon and a marriage battery, but the prosecution refused to prosecute the charges.

As the alleged violence escalated, the grades and mental health of the children declined, as an overview of school and medical records shows. (USA TODAY does not identify the youngest son because he is a minor.)

"When these high levels of stress occur too often and too intensively, a toxic pathway that affects, learns, and learns how our brain and our body and mind work behave, "said psychologist Sheri Madigan, a professor at the University of Calgary in Canada.

Yadira Sanchez did not respond to a comment. Her lawyer Ethan Marcus admits the boys were exposed to domestic violence. He claims Eric Sanchez's efforts to separate the boys from their mothers would probably hurt them even more.

"This is not the case where physical violence was the main factor," Marcus said.

Conversion to the Brain, Body

Researchers who followed 1,420 children in North Carolina aged 9 to 30 years found that domestic violence had the same effect serious and life-changing effects as in who experienced the abuse directly.

The American Medical Association published the study in November. The University of Vermont psychologist, William Copeland, was its lead author. These children "have the same kind of bad results 10, 20 years later" than children who "directly experience it themselves".

A global study conducted last year with more than 125,000 people from all socio-economic backgrounds Children who experienced domestic violence had the same risk and frequency of PTSD as soldiers returning from the war.

Investigations presented to the International Society for Traumatic Stress in November show that children who have been exposed to trauma early, including domestic violence, have a smaller hippocampus – the brain area associated with learning and memory formation – a risk factor for PTSD.

Other research shows that the amygdala – the part of the brain that processes emotions, memory and anxiety – in children to which it was subjected to violence reacts more strongly to threats than to children who have not.

Eamon McCrory, Professor of Developmental Neurosciences at University College London, says t The changes make it harder for these children to get along with others. Other studies have shown that exposing violence to children leads to lower scores and increases the likelihood of dropping out of school.

Psychologist and Professor Katie McLaughlin heads the Harvard stress and development lab. "This change in size and probably function of the hippocampus could be a possible mechanism underlying these differences in academic performance," she said. The brain protects against dangers. However, when children struggle with adversity, their brains can become overwhelmed.

Learning Disabilities

Catholic high schools near San Diego began exploring Angel Sanchez when he was in middle school, according to his then-trainer Phillip Lomax. The tight middle-linebacker – he was 6 feet tall and had 225 pounds in high school – was hard to miss.

The problem was, Sanchez said, just as his sporting skills became noticeable, his home life worsened and his grades declined.

His mother stayed out late at night, his father found other men's numbers on her phone and a phone Eric Sanchez grew up in a pattern of unpredictable and often violent behavior against the boys and their father. Each of the three boys had an individualized training program that described how best to learn given their disabilities. Angel has a speech disorder that affects his verbal and written communication, reading comprehension, and solving mathematical problems. Noel received accomodation to get extra time for homework and tests. The youngest boy struggles with reading and writing. All boys received intensive tutoring, speech therapy and case managers.

When parents' tensions increased, Angel's grade point average dropped from 3.0 at the beginning of sixth grade to 1.3 at the beginning of seventh grade, according to school records.

It was the year 2008 when her mother chased her dad around the table with a steak knife and stabbed at the upholstered kitchen stools, Eric Sanchez and the boys said that they were involved in children's charities.

Noel Sanchez, today 18, remembers this period. "Oh man, I can still see and hear what happened these nights, it will not go anywhere," he said.

In children exposed to domestic violence, the parts of the brain that detect threats and anticipate pain – the anterior insula and amygdala – are severely affected by threatening faces in brain imaging.

Researchers at University College London wrote in 2011 that the findings may predict a later risk factor for anxiety disorders and increased susceptibility to mental illness. A recent study by the same authors showed that this increased responsiveness was also present when children were unaware of a threat.

"If you've grown up in a dangerous situation, you're more likely to respond to something that's actually completely safe (as if it were) a potential threat," McLaughlin said.

The two younger Sanchez boys went back and forth between their illegitimate parents. Angel stayed with his father. School progress reports show that Noel missed 57 lessons in the first three months of 2017. His younger brother missed 137.

In 2016, Yadira Sanchez received a restraining order against Angel. Her lawyer, Ethan Marcus, says Angel has been constantly trying to take his brothers away from their mother. Yadira lost custody of the boys in March 2017.

Lomax, the coach, says chaos has hurt Angels future plans. "If you had asked me what Angel's potential as a linebacker in ninth grade was, he was certainly a Division I candidate," he said.

Father Eric Sanchez says a high school pulled out a scholarship offer after it had seen Angels grades. In high school, he often missed the practice during parental custody.

Noel Sanchez says the riots before her parents' separation and stay with her mother after the breakup were so traumatic that he attempted suicide in 2014 and this took into account other times. "I was just trying to hurt myself to make the pain disappear," he said.

From mother to daughter

Debbie Ricker says she is indigenous. Violence is evident over three generations of her family. Both the Californian woman and her daughter Desiree say that this has led to drug use, alcohol abuse and other mental and physical struggles.

Ricker fought a 15-year custody dispute with her ex-husband. It only ended when her son turned 18 years old. She says the emotional abuse she has suffered and her children are still affected. "My ex was very open with his abuse of me," she said. "The abuse happened before our children, friends, our family."

Desiree, now 29, said, "I've never heard that he's nice to her, he has degraded her every step of the way."

Marc Loehren, ex-husband of Debbie Ricker and Desiree's father, denies their allegations. He was never charged with a crime against her. "My two kids had a wonderful childhood," he told USA TODAY. "There was no violence in this household … if anything, my mother hit me with a car."

He acknowledges that the children were with several psychologists , However, he cites Ricker's family background and marriage before and after their relationship. He claims Ricker was trying to undermine his relationship with the children.

"The children are quite irritated by everything the mother has told them – which is alienation," Loehren said.

During an interview during a family custody interview during the custody battle, Loerhren said Ricker shocked the children when he called the police when he allegedly violated the injunctions.

Based on a recommendation of the appraiser, a judge at the Family Court ordered the parents to confer together. The judge said that everyone had to educate themselves about "child development and conflicts with parents".

62-year-old Ricker says she has called for a divorce. She says Loehren suggested that the two sit down and explain to the children. She says he opened the conversation by saying, "Mom does not like dad anymore, so she breaks up our family." The kids started screaming and crying, Ricker says. Then they started to beat her.

Desiree started gaining weight at about 5 years old. One therapist later attributed weight gain to the family dysfunction. When Desiree was 12, family doctor Ricker said that her daughter had diabetes. "It just made me cry," says Ricker.

In high school, Desiree says, she has gained about 100 pounds – the weight she still carries. At age 12, Desiree began an abusive relationship with a friend who also came from a violent home. It was on and off until she was 27 years old. The ex-boyfriend was never charged with abuse.

Studies show that childhood adversity can later lead to obesity. Researchers at Duke University reported last year that children between the ages of 12 and 15 are far more likely to eat poorly and have less physical activity after domestic violence.

"These things fit together"

It is common for children who are exposed to domestic violence to experience other adverse childhood experiences as well. ACEs are associated with a range of mental and physical sequelae during life to early death.

"If there is domestic violence in the household, it is statistically likely that there will also be physical abuse and emotional abuse and possibly drug abuse or alcohol abuse," said Canan Karatekin, a professor at the Institute of Child Development at the University of Minnesota. "These things go together."

Huff took on the role of protector of her younger siblings. It bore its own burden.

During the summer before fifth grade, she says, she recalls having one of her sisters in her lap when another was hospitalized after the first of several suicide attempts. "I had to grow up fast and be a second dam of my siblings," she says. "It made me stronger, I was determined not to be like my sister or mother."

That was almost impossible.

Huff and her mother say that domestic violence involves generations in their family.

Denise Boyd took care of a one-year-old daughter when she was pregnant with Huff at the age of 21. Boyd had suffered after years with the abusive father of her children.

The father could not be reached for comment. He was never charged with a crime against Boyd.

Boyd's mother took her to Georgia. Once at her parents' house, Boyd says, she seldom went out. In rare cases, she hid on the floor of the family car. "I felt like I was not the same anymore," Boyd said. "I did not know what happened to me."

Huff was born in August 1979. As a little girl, she developed a speech disorder. In the eighth grade, Huff says, she was so worried that she wanted to run away. She was briefly transferred to a juvenile detention center.

David Murphey, director of Child Trends DataBank, describes domestic violence as a type of toxic stress later linked to health problems in life. Domestic violence rewires the brain, damaging the executive function – "the ability to weigh options and make well-informed decisions." Specialists say recognizing, treating and preventing domestic violence is the key to reducing it.

Trained nurse midwife Pamela Glenn, head of field education at the Baltimore School of Nursing in Baltimore, has spent 30 years investigating her patients for abuse.

She says that healthcare professionals should create a safe space for patients, not judge or blame, and avoid the word "abuse".

"When most people hear the word" abuse, "they automatically think of physical violence," Glenn said. "The abuse can only be emotional abuse – but that can severely damage people's health."

She asks questions such as "Does your partner support you?" And "Do you ever find out that your partner is constantly reviewing you when you're not together, and she interrogates you sometimes?" If she suspects abuse, she says resources are available like information for a lawyer or a safe place.

Experts say screening alone is not enough. "Screening is the first step, but it's just a first step," said Jess Bartle tt, a trauma researcher at Child Trends. "Too often, we look at what children have experienced, but not how they work." She says that health care providers should consider the needs of children and whether the community has the resources to respond.

Murphey agrees. "If there are not adequate networks of services and referral practices to track results," he said, "you really have an unfortunate situation where you know you have many problems, but you do not. There are not Services available to respond to them. "

With the treatment, researchers wrote in a report to the National Scientific Council about the child exposed to early trauma, including domestic violence, that they did not experience stress Related Disorders.

Often, helping parents, friends, family, and school can help alleviate the effects of stress and trauma in children, according to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network.

"A strong relationship with caring "Non-Violent Violence" Parents are one of the key factors that help children to grow positively despite their experience, "d he group in a 2014 report.

Huth-Bocks, however, said that the parents she works with ar We are often "busy keeping everyone alive and may not always be the most sensitive parent.

"There are larger fish for frying."

Pure chaos & # 39;

Huff says it's a violent world her twins entered in July 2014.

She says the father held the boy in his hand two days after she was born, as he swung her. The girl was the crib behind Huff, she says. Sie sagt, dass sie sich an der Krippe festhalten musste, damit sie nicht herunterfällt.

Der Vater Ignacio Ramirez Vallejo bestreitet ihr Konto. "Es ist nie passiert", sagte er den USA HEUTE. Er wurde in dem angeblichen Vorfall nicht angeklagt. "Ich war schon oft vor Gericht", sagte er. "Latrelle versuchte, mich wegen vieler verschiedener Dinge anzuklagen. Wir waren fast sieben Jahre zusammen. Sie finden mich nie für schuldig. “

Ramirez Vallejo sagt, er habe Huff nicht sexuell angegriffen.

Sein Anwalt, A.J. Balbo gab USA HEUTE Kopien von Briefen, von denen er sagt, dass Huff zwei Jahre vor der Geburt der Zwillinge an Ramirez Vallejo geschrieben hatte und sagte, dass sie Kinder bei sich haben wollte. "Alles, was sie über mich sagen, ist nicht wahr", sagte Ignacio Ramirez. "Ich bin Christ."

Jeanne Fell, eine auf Neurologie spezialisierte Krankenpflegerin, die Huffs Zwillinge behandelt hat, sagt, die Schwangerschaft sei ungefähr so ​​kompliziert Sie kommen. Huff hatte während der gesamten Schwangerschaft schweres Erbrechen und benötigte intravenöse Medikamente. Ein Kaiserschnitt war für 37 Wochen geplant. Eine typische Schwangerschaft dauert 40 Jahre.

"Es ist reines Chaos, seit diese Kinder geboren wurden", sagte Fell. "Sie tut ihr Bestes, aber sicherlich gibt es Grenzen, was sie den Kindern geben kann."

Beide Babys waren arme Esser, sagt Fell. Der Junge hatte ein Hyptonia- oder Floppy-Baby-Syndrom, das durch Nerven- oder Hirnschäden verursacht werden kann. Er ist jetzt auf ein starkes Antipsychotikum angewiesen, um bei Aggressionen und Selbstverletzungen zu helfen, wie seine Krankenakten belegen. Fell sagte, er habe "wirklich gute Arbeit geleistet und sei viel ruhiger", aber wenn er die Droge verlasse, sagte er, er schlägt andere und versucht zu fliehen.

Huff hat Berichte von der Schule ihrer Tochter erhalten, darunter auch eine von USA TODAY vom Oktober an, in dem sie als "besonders tränenreich" beschrieben wurde und beschuldigt wird, mehrere andere Kinder zu "mondieren".

Kein Kind schläft mehr als fünf Stunden pro Nacht, sagt Huff. Bevor er mit seinen aktuellen Medikamenten begann, schlief Huffs Sohn selten mehr als drei Stunden.

Huff hat einen Master-Abschluss in psychologischer Gesundheitsberatung und verfolgt einen zweiten Master in sozialer Arbeit. Sie verlor vor Kurzem ihren Job als bewaffneter Wachmann, nachdem sie die Arbeit für die Gesundheit ihrer Kinder verpasst hatte. Sie sucht jetzt einen Job im Bereich der psychischen Gesundheit.

Ramirez-Vallejo, ein undokumentierter Immigrant, wurde kurz nach Präsident in Savannah festgenommen Donald Trump übernahm sein Amt, sagte ein Sprecher der Einwanderungs- und Zollbehörde. Sein Fall ist vor dem Einwanderungsgericht anhängig. Er hat argumentiert, dass er in diesem Land bleiben darf, weil er hier Kinder hat. Er sieht die Kinder zwei volle Tage lang jedes zweite Wochenende, darf aber nicht mit ihnen die Nacht verbringen.

Huff sagt, sie versucht, sich auf die Zukunft zu konzentrieren.

"Mein Traum ist es, dass meine Kinder nicht wie ich und ihr Vater in einer dysfunktionalen Familie aufwachsen", sagte sie. "Ich möchte, dass sich beide Kinder sicher fühlen und in einer Umgebung wachsen können, in der sie erfolgreich, stabil und glücklich sein werden.

" Die neue Generation braucht eine Chance, das Leben ohne Fortschreiten des Zyklus zu leben. "

Die Berichterstattung für diesen Artikel wurde vom Fonds für Journalismus für das Wohlergehen von Kindern, einem Programm des USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism, unterstützt.

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