You can’t stop where you come from because it’s in your blood, it’s in your DNA..” ~ Lia Marie Johnson

Lia Marie Johnson, actress, singer and YouTuber, released a heart wrenching song and video titled “DNA” about the devastating impact domestic violence has had on her life; and her struggle to break free from the cycle of abuse. 

Past my bedtime,

Blue and red lights,

Come take you away,

Hate to see you like a monster,

So I run and hide...”

According to statistics, as many as 10 million children witness domestic violence each year. In the United States, in a single day (2008) 16,458 children were living in a domestic violence shelter or transitional housing facility, while an additional 6,430 children sought services at a non-residential program. (fromThe National Network to End Domestic Violence, (2009). Domestic Violence Counts 2008: A 24-hour Census of Domestic Violence Shelters and Services). And in Canada, on any given day, about 2,500 children are living in an abused woman’s shelter with their mothers (Little Eyes, Little Ears). 

Witnessing abuse includesWitnessing can mean SEEING actual incidents of physical/and or sexual abuse. It can mean HEARING threats or fighting noises from another room. Children may also OBSERVE the aftermath of physical abuse such as blood, bruises, tears, torn clothing, and broken items. Finally children may be AWARE of the tension in the home such as their mother’s fearfulness when the abuser’s car pulls into the driveway.” (Domestic Violence Roundtable) Witnessing abuse is traumatic to children, even if they are not physically hurt, and causes harmful effects on every part of a child’s life physically, emotionally, socially and developmentally. Children who witness abuse are also more likely to become involved in abusive relationships as adults (which is not limited to intimate relationships but could involve any social interaction such as: work, church/religious involvement, friendships, or a pattern of being manipulated or taken advantage of.) 

The video for “DNA”, released in 2016, shows the cycle of abuse in two parallel stories of Lia witnessing domestic violence as a child, and later experiencing it in her own life as a young adult. 

Public Domain Image: http://awesomwallpaper.com

The damage that abuse has created in Lia’s life are vividly depicted in the video for “DNA” – these are common struggles many survivors face – she is a young adult who is seeking love and attention in the wrong places. She is the life of the party whose smile hides the turmoil she feels inside. She feels depressed, anxious, insecure. Lia’s life is spinning out of control as she parties and drinks. For more info on how domestic violence affects children, please read: Children and Youth Exposed to Domestic Violence

Research has also shown that children who are exposed to violence, or are victims of violence, are at a much higher risk for entering abusive relationships in later in life – meaning the cycle of abuse continues. This is also true for Lia, who reveals in the “DNA” video, her own experiences being involved in an emotionally and physically abusive relationship. Lia says about this relationship,”When I wrote this song, I was at a really low point. I saw a lot of similarities. I didn’t want to be like that.” (Lia Marie Johnson – DNA “Behind the Scenes”). The similarities are shown in the video, when images flash back and forth between Lia and her memories of her parents, where she witnessed her mother being abused by her father. The song also reflects the inner conflict Lia feels – torn between fear of her father and the love she has for him.

Lia says witnessing abuse left her with low self-esteem and feeling that she “would always be a f– up” but she later learned, that she can change her life. And what she saw in parent’s life does not have to repeat into her own. Which is true, it is possible to break the cycle of abuse. If you have been a victim of domestic violence or exposed to it, there is help, support and resources available to assist you with safety planning and other needs (please see list of Helplines below). 

Are the pieces of you

In the pieces of me

I’m just so scared

You’re who I’ll be when I erupt,

Just like you do

They look at me

Like I look at you

I won’t be, no

I won’t be like you

Fighting back,

I’m fighting back the truth …”

 

Additional Reading: 

Child Abuse and Neglect: How to Spot the Signs and Make a Difference

The Effects of Domestic Violence on Children (Domestic Violence Roundtable)

Little Eyes, Little Ears: How Domestic Violence Shapes Children As They Grow by Alison Cunningham & Linda Baker

 

Helplines: 

National Child Abuse Hotline: 1.800.422.4453
www.childhelp.org

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1.800.799.7233
www.ndvh.org

Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network: 1.800.656.4673
www.rainn.org

National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline: 1.866.331.9474
www.loveisrespect.org

 

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Charleston, South Carolina, September 2016The Charleston Police Department arrested  Kevin Michael Wesley Jr, 30, a Berkeley County School District bus driver, on charges of sexual misconduct with a minor.

In September 2015, Wesley began sending private messages, initiated phone calls and engaged in a sexual relationship with a 14 year old girl. Wesley insisted on secrecy, the molestation could not be hidden once she became pregnant. The teen gave birth a year later.

 

Bond was set at $400k. The terms of release include: “…the judge ordered Wesley to have no contact with the victim, her family members or anyone under 18 without a supervising adult present. The judge told Wesley he can see his own family, including his two boys.” <– QUESTION: Wesley is accused of a sexual crime involving a vulnerable young girl. He used his position as a school bus driver to gain the trust of this girl, and then sexually molested her. The criminal complaint indicates that Wesley was aware that his actions were wrong, and that he could “get in trouble” if he was caught. Clearly Wesley poses a danger to children.

 

How can this judge justify allowing this potentially dangerous predator contact with any children, even his own?? As Wesley has shown, sexual abuse does not always begin with a sexual act but begins with gaining trust and gaining control of the victim. Any form of contact with a child can be used to later exploit or harm that child – physically, mentally, psychologically and sexually.

 

Sex offenders groom not only children but adults are well, and are adept at manipulating people and situations to gain access to their victims, and to gain the trust of those they later exploit. According to The Mama Bear Effect,”People think that grooming a child for sexual abuse is something done in isolation – quite the contrary. Why? By establishing a close relationship with a child in front of others, people are less likely to be suspicious (after all, many believe sexual predators would not be so bold), and secondly, if the adults aren’t suspicious, it creates a false sense of security with the child that they are safe with this person and what they do is acceptable.” The Mama Bear Effect wrote an article titled “There Is No Stereotype For Offenders” that is an excellent source for general information on sexual abuse and the characteristics/red flags of sexual abuse offenders. The article describes the 4 common stages of abuse, and offers tips on how to protect your child as well as tips on how to confront a person whose behavior may be concerning. 

 

Wesley is no longer employed by the school district.

 

The victim’s anguished mother appeared in court during the bond hearing stating,”I felt like she was safe when she got on the bus with him. I had no idea he would prey on her innocence.” An estimated 90% of victims of abuse know their abuser.

Sources: Berkeley County School District bus driver charged with sexual misconduct with minor

Police: School bus driver had baby with student who rode on his bus

 What behaviors might a person who sexually abuses children use to gain trust?