Children & Domestic Violence

We refer to children as the silent victims of domestic violence. Even if they aren’t a direct target of an abuser’s actions, they suffer lasting emotional damage. We know that 1 in 15 children are exposed to domestic violence each year and 90 percent of these children are eyewitnesses to this violence.

Children who have lived in a home where domestic violence occurs face a long list of fears and problems. Some withdraw from the world; others lash out at those around them. The constant stress may result in chronic stomachaches or headaches, and can even compromise their immune systems. They may be forced to shoulder adult responsibilities or to tiptoe around an angry parent. Even more chilling, children in homes in which violence occurs are physically abused or neglected at a rate 1500 percent higher than the national average — and the more severely their mother is abused, the greater the severity of the abuse to the child.

Without intervention, they’re far more likely to become victims or abusers as adults. Boys who witness domestic violence are twice as likely to abuse their own partners and children when they become adults. Girls who grow up believing that abusive behavior is a normal component of love are far more likely to be victims in their own relationships.

If you are aware of a situation in which a child is being abused, you have a legal responsibility to report it to the authorities. And, if you know of a situation in which a mother is being abused, the best way to protect children in the home is to ensure that the mother receives help.