Dismantling the Stage for Violence: Addressing the Effects of Institutionalied Violence on Children and Caregivers

Domestic violence is uncomfortably common in the U.S. While there are many efforts to provide shelter and assistance for survivors of violence, few efforts are aimed at understanding and resolving the origins of violence. Institutionalized social and medical violence against children, pregnant and birthing women, and their partners is one source of the domestic violence cycle that can easily be identified and addressed.

Few if any of us are intentionally abusive of other human beings. However, there is evidence that routine healthcare received before, during, and after birth has been disempowering and even traumatic for women and babies. See for example Cruelty in Maternity Wards: Fifty Years Later, which is itself a reference to the landmark 1958 article “Cruelty in Maternity Wards” exposing the culture of harshness and objectification toward women and infants common within the obstetric ward at that time.

Trauma during the primal period is implicated in a wide range of long-term physical, emotional, and psychosocial consequences. Babies are strongly affected by the distress of their mothers, parents, or caregivers, both before and after birth. Full physical and psychosocial development requires an environment of trust where the needs of the baby and the needs of the caregivers are being met. Unresolved early trauma and abuse are associated with attachment disorders, including the perpetuation of violence. Understanding and addressing early neglect and abuse is crucial to ending violence.

NotJustSkin aims to identify and address institutionalized traumatization of children and their adult caregivers. Examples of the cultural paradigm under which routine, unintended trauma to pregnant women and infants occurs include restrictions in natural maternal behavior, routine induction, coercive environments, drugs and anesthesia, mechanically assisted or surgical birth, routine separation of babies and parents, and circumcision.

Although birth-related stress and trauma can usually be effectively healed, it must first be recognized.

NotJustSkin has initiated a workshop series that lays a foundation for expanded understanding of the primal period and its direct and indirect connections to violence. In these workshops, interactive exercises raise participants’ awareness of the needs and concerns of children and their caregivers, with attention to the specific needs of those in diverse communities. These workshops are appropriate for scientific, medical, and interested lay-participants.

Contact us to request a workshop for your organization.