Seven women have been killed by their partners or ex-partners in the Canary Islands so far this year. Four children have been orphaned and one lost his life, with his mother, at the hands of his father. They are the invisible victims of gender violence. They need psychological help to overcome the trauma of loss and, in many cases, to cope with the abuse they have suffered daily in the first person.
The Chief of Services for Child Prevention and Protection Programs of the Directorate General for the Protection of Children and the Family of Canary GovernmentJosé Pereira, says that children who live in a family environment where situations of sexist violence occur generate self-defense mechanisms to overcome these episodes. Specifically, "when it comes to teenagers, they usually leave home and leave with friends to get away," he says.
Violence – whether physical or psychological – exerted by the father on the mother in the presence of minors has a direct impact on them. It can generate them from physiological problems such as anxiety, headaches or permanent fatigue; behavioral changes such as isolation, school failure or insomnia; until congenital alterations such as feelings of hate, perceive tasks as more difficult than they are, fear or insecurity.
"The most serious thing is that there is a good chance that they will repeat these behaviors later," Pereira warns. At the mental level, children develop and grow with unstable or inadequate supportive figures such as "an abusive and violent father and a mother who cannot create a safe context."
Vicarious violence is a type of intrafamily violence that includes behaviors carried out in a conscious manner to generate harm to another person. This violence is a form of child abuse. Children can witness the attacks by one of their relatives or suffer the attacks directly. Children become an instrument to harm the couple.
"It's a dramatic situation, but the father can kill his children," says Pereira, "there are few cases but very serious and very shocking." For the specialist, these actions have to do with the feeling of possession. "The aggressor thinks that the children are his and, therefore, he can do whatever he wants with them," he says.
As an example, that of Jakob and Jonah. Jakob's body – 10 years old – was found next to that of his mother, Silvia Handrick, inside a cave in Adeje. The youngest son – 5 years old – managed to escape and report that his father was assaulting them. When some neighbors found him, he had been in shock wandering the bush alone.
When a child suffers a situation of violence by the father or, simply, the mother detects any symptoms, the parent has the right to consult and ask for help in elementary networks, through the pediatricians of the health centers, explains Pereira . Who also highlights the work carried out in these cases by the Municipal Social Services teams. Only in the event that some special protection measure had to be taken, because the minor does not have any family member to protect him, would the Directorate General for Children and Family intervene, "who would temporarily take care of the children until the biological family or the extended family can protect them. "