Experience with Abuse Leads to Book and Career

Diane Davis knows what domestic violence is. Terrified as a child when her parents fought, she hid herself and her younger brother and sister in a bathroom or closet.

Like many from violent homes, Davis ended up in a marriage that turned abusive. These grim experiences brought her to membership in a support group for battered women, and that led to Something Is Wrong at My House.

This story for children, available in both English and Spanish, came together in a single day, Davis remembers, “and even now, 25 years after I wrote the first edition, all of the information in it is still relevant. Children still feel the same feelings and need the same kind of help that the book describes.”

Current statistics show that more than 3 million American children witness violence in their homes each year, continues Davis, “So domestic violence is obviously a problem that has not been solved. In fact, awareness of it has increased tremendously since the first edition of my book came out.”

Initially published in 1984 by Parenting Press and revised in 2010, Something Is Wrong at My House is Davis’s effort to help children whose violent home lives can create lifelong issues. She knows how much kids continue to need this help because she has spent the years since the book’s publication working in abuse prevention.

As a single parent she returned to school, completed a B.A. in human services, a certification program in alcohol studies and then a M.A. in psychology.

“What I went through as a child and young mother enables me to relate to the trauma that battered women and their children experience,” Davis explains, adding that adults often assume—or want to believe—that children don’t realize what is going on. “But many children have told me about the fights they’ve witnessed. Kids have even described the cycle of violence and predicted when the next beating will take place.”

The fact that children can be so insightful does not relieve them of fear and emotional pain, she points out.

Beyond what children suffer through domestic violence is what they learn, says Davis.

“Children are like understudies in a play, watching and learning from their parents. I have seen first-hand how children mimic the violence they have seen at home. It becomes learned behavior.”

Making Davis more sensitive to the lifelong risks of family violence was her graduate school internship at a psychiatric hospital and volunteer work at a women’s shelter.

“I discovered that many of the people I worked with had grown up with domestic violence and had become victims—or perpetrators.”

This can start very early in life; those who study bullying point out that children who experience or see violence in their homes are more likely to bully siblings, playmates and classmates. Alcohol’s ability to fuel aggression and violence also contributes to bullying and domestic violence.

Men are more often the abusers and women the victims, but these roles can be reversed, reminds the author, who has counseled male victims and women perpetrators.

Davis’s volunteer work in agencies such as Seattle’s New Beginnings shelter for battered women and their children and the comments of professionals using the book have also made her aware of how important it is that children be able to talk about the violence they have experienced. “Children are ashamed of what is happening in their homes, but they’ll start talking once they realize other children have gone through the same experiences.”

It’s also vital, she emphasizes, that children be assured that they are not to blame for the violence. “That’s something kids often assume.”

Something Is Wrong at My House created a career for Davis in abuse prevention and treatment, and it led to such later publications as Working with Children from Violent Homes and Stop It, Now! A Guide for the Prevention of Sexual Harassment for Elementary School Children. Her coaching and consulting practice covers special needs, chemical dependency, positive communication, and positive parenting as well as domestic violence, anger management, grief and loss in children and reporting child abuse. Davis has also worked on sexual abuse prevention curricula and a video that prepares parents to respond to disclosures of sexual abuse.

Through assignments with Child Care Resources & Referral of King County, Seattle and Bellevue Public Schools, Puget Sound and Olympic Educational Service Districts, School’s Out Washington, the City of Seattle’s WIC program for low-income mothers and the Child Protective Services unit of Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, Davis has worked with both educators and parents as a trainer and counselor, providing prevention, early intervention and parenting programs.

In early 2010 she began a series of webinars for the Washington State Head Start/ECEAP Association on such topics as:

  • Understanding Autism
  • Understanding Sensory Integration Disorder
  • Working with Children with Fetal Alcohol Disorder
  • Working with High-Risk Children
  • Managing Behaviors in Children with Special Needs

An adjunct faculty member at Bellevue (WA) College and the Seattle Community College District, Davis is a Seattle native and today lives in West Seattle

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