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October 21, 2009

LANSING, Mich. - An alarming trickle-down from the economic crisis is seeping into the lives of Michigan children, as law enforcement agencies are reporting higher numbers of domestic violence cases.

Parents might underestimate the emotional damage being done to children who are exposed to such violence, according to Shareen McBride-Wicklund, a family advocate with the Association for Children's Mental Health in Michigan. She says she knows from personal experience that abuse cannot be hidden from most kids.

"I was in an abusive relationship and, even though I thought we were hiding it from our son, he was caught up in it. And what finally made me leave was, I didn't want him to become an abuser."

McBride-Wicklund points out that domestic violence is a learned behavior for the majority of abusers. Some figures to keep in mind during October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month: One in four women reports being assaulted by a partner or spouse, and about 75 percent of women say they've been harassed at work by their abusers.

There are many resources available to help both adults and children move on to healthier lives -- but the first step is to create a plan that includes protecting them, says McBride-Wicklund.

"Have a safety plan -- where she can escape, with important information that she may need if she does leave. Have a plan so the children know where to go if an argument gets out of control or, even if it doesn't get out of control, what they need to do to get out of that house."

McBride-Wicklund advises abuse victims who are pondering a decision to leave, to set aside some money and compile a list of available community resources, in case they are needed.

Amy Miller/Laura Thornquist, Public News Service - MI