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Foss: Children too often victims of domestic violence

Foss: Children too often victims of domestic violence

Foss: Children too often victims of domestic violence
At the scene of Tuesday's shooting in Schenectady. Fortunately the child was unharmed.

What kind of monster shoots a gun at a child? 

It's a terrible question - and I'm sure I'm not the only one asking it. 

Not after Tuesday's horrific explosion of violence, in which a 47-year-old man allegedly shot a 16-year-old girl, a 7-year-old boy and a 35-year-old woman at a house on Union Street in Schenectady. 

It was a bad scene - the picture of a Schenectady firefighter carrying a baby away from the scene, unharmed, broke my heart - and it could have been much worse. The victims are in stable condition, but the chilling reality is that they all could have been killed. 

In another domestic violence case with local ties, a man murdered his wife - whose parents are from Stillwater - and one of his children before killing himself and setting his house on fire. Two other children were shot, but are expected to survive, and a fourth child fled to a neighbor's house.

Again, it boggles the mind: What kind of monster shoots a gun at a child? 

Most people would never dream of doing such a thing, but the ugly truth is that violence against children is commonplace. 

Stories of people harming children are printed in newspapers every day, and the emotional and physical toll is considerable. 

Unsurprisingly, the research suggests that children who are exposed to domestic violence are at greater risk of being abused or neglected. 

According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, between 30 percent to 60 percent of perpetrators of intimate partner violence also abuse children in the household. One study found that children exposed to violence in the home were 15 times more likely to be physically and/or sexually assaulted than the national average. 

These findings should give us pause. 

As a society, we claim to value the health and well-being of children above all else. 

Yet the research suggests that we're doing a poor job, overall, of ensuring that children grow up in homes free of violence. 

Much of this violence occurs behind closed doors, but every once in a while it spills out into the open, as it did on Tuesday. 

The woman shot on Tuesday seemed to have some sense of what the suspect might be capable. In April, she told Schenectady police that she feared for her life and the lives of her children after her boyfriend, Deshawn Howard, attacked and threatened her. 

"I am scared because he has told me that if I leave him, he is going to kill me and my children, and I know he has a revolver," the woman said, after an April incident in which Howard allegedly punched her repeatedly in the presence of the three children. 

People who abuse their partners and children aren't joking when they make threats like this. They are deadly serious, and we shouldn't be surprised when they attempt to follow through. 

Which doesn't mean that domestic violence is inevitable, or that we can't do a better job of protecting and assisting victims. 

We can. 

And we must. 

Domestic violence doesn't occur in isolation - it impacts entire families, and leaves lasting wounds. Children witness abuse every day; many of them are abused themselves. Too often, they are caught in the crossfire while the adults around them fight. 

If we want children to grow up healthy and whole, we need to do a better job of protecting them from violence, and that includes the violence in their own homes. 

Reach Sara Foss at [email protected]. Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper's.



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