Children, the most innocent victims
Domestic violence doesn't just affect the victim and abuser. Over 3 million children witness domestic violence each year. There are serious repercussions to being raised in a violent home. If you or someone you know is currently living in a domestic violent relationship and there are children in the home, please educate yourself & help protect the innocent children.
The Impact of Domestic Violence on Children
Children imitate what they see. They are like sponges, soaking in everything. If children witness violence in their homes, they learn that violence is an acceptable and an integral part of intimate relationships. This means, boys are more likely to abuse and girls are more likely to be abused if they're raised in a violent home.
- Boys who witness domestic violence are twice as likely to abuse their own partners and children when they become adults, than those raised in a non-violent home. (1)
- In families where the mother is assaulted by the father, daughters are at risk of sexual abuse 6.51 times greater than girls in non-abusive families. (2)
Children are often abused in order for the abuser to manipulate, hurt, or gain revenge upon his/her significant other. The child could also be mistreated by the victim as she releases her stress on the child or attempts to keep the child well-behaved, so as not to provoke the abuser.
- Studies show that child abuse occurs in 30 to 60 percent of family violence cases that involve families with children. (3)
A victim living under the weight of domestic abuse is rarely able to completely fulfill the needs of the children. Infants and children who are neglected by their caregivers are predisposed to illness and have monumental difficulties in the areas of development and overall well being.
- Studies supporting the idea of a sensitive developmental period show that maltreated infants suffer from greater developmental disabilities than those children who were maltreated later in childhood. (4)
Children may run away to seek independence and freedom from violence, rage, and arguments at home.
- 34% of runaway youth (girls and boys) reported sexual abuse before leaving home and forty-three percent of runaway youth (girls and boys) reported physical abuse before leaving home. (5)
These are just some of the impacts domestic violence has on children. As you can see from the wheel above, there are many ways that domestic violence harms children.
PSA: Domestic Violence Has More Than One Victim
Behaviors Associated with Children from Violent Homes
If you are a parent, family member, teacher, school nurse, pediatrician, police officer, judge, mental health provider, child protection worker, domestic violence advocate, or anyone else that interacts with children you have a responsibility to recognize what behaviors children from violent homes exhibit. Then you have the obligation to do something about it. Here is a list of behaviors that are frequently associated with children from violent homes:
- Physical complaints - headaches, stomach aches, bed wetting, ulcers.
- Eating problems - increased or decreased appetite.
- Trouble sleeping - being tired all the time.
- Hair pulling or nail biting.
- Physical injuries.
- School phobias - impaired concentration.
- Temper tantrums.
- Fear of men - and/or their voices.
- Fear of being touched - flinching when someone reaches towards them.
- Disruptive behavior - stealing, aggression.
- Passivity - clinging, anxiety.
- Withdrawal - isolation, loneliness.
- Role reversal - child assumes parental roles, protector/caretaker.
- Poor self-image.
- Suicidal ideation - and/or suicide attempts. (6)
These children need advocates to speak up for them. Some are too young to have a voice. Others have been threatened or coerced into keeping silent. "If you tell anyone, I'll kill you." Or "No one will believe you." Help the children have a voice.
How to Help
If you are the victim of domestic abuse and the parent of a child living in this violent home, get help and get out now. Mothers, the dangers of staying (for both you & the children) far outweigh any benefits of remaining in the relationship. If your abuser has threatened to get custody of the children or that you won't survive financially without him, that is an outright lie. There are many resources available to you to help you not only survive, but thrive!
National Domestic Violence Hotline:
Find a Local Shelter:
Visit this website for a list of U.S. shelters near you.
- When Dad Hurts Mom: Helping Your Children Heal the Wounds of Witnessing Abuse by Lundy Bancroft (Putnam Adult, 2004)
- The Batterer as Parent by Lundy Bancroft and Jay G. Silverman (Sage Publications, Inc. 2002)
If you are not the parent/legal guardian, but you think that there is abuse in the home take action! Call 911 if you believe the child is in immediate danger. Otherwise, you can find the local number for child protective services online or in a phone book. Also, you can call the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-422-4453.
Do not attempt to separate the child from their parent/legal guardian without the involvement of local law enforcement or CPS.
Finally, share this article! Raising awareness about domestic violence and how it affects children, can help stop the cycle of abuse. You can make a difference in the life of a child with just the click of a button.
1. Rosenbaum and O'Leary, "Children: The Unintended Victims of Marital Violence," American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 1981.
2. Bowker, Arbitell and McFerron,"On the Relationship Between Wife Beating and Child Abuse," Perspectives on Wife Abuse, 1988.
3. J.L. Edleson, "The overlap between child maltreatment and woman battering." Violence Against Women, February, 1999.
4. Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2001a). In focus: Understanding the effects of maltreatment on early brain development [Online]. Available: http://www.childwelfare.gov/edtoolkit/pdfs/earlybrain.pdf
5. Molnar, B., Shade, S., Kral, A., Booth, R., & Watters, J. (1998). Suicidal Behavior and Sexual / Physical Abuse Among Street Youth. Child Abuse & Neglect. Vol. 22, NO. 3, pp. 213-222.
6.Unattributed. How does domestic violence affect children? [Online].