Children and Domestic Violence
- In the United States, at least 3.3 million children between the ages of 3 and 19 are at risk of exposure to domestic violence every year.
- Between 50 and 70% of men who abuse their female partners also abuse their children.
The experience of living in a home with a batterer is different for each child. Some children primarily hear or sense the violence while others witness physical, emotional, and/or sexual abuse perpetrated against their mothers or fathers. Many children experience emotional, behavioral, physical, social and cognitive impacts from exposure to abusers. How children are impacted by domestic violence depends on mediating factors such as their age and developmental level, the severity of the violence they experience, and the strength of family and community support.
How to Support Children’s Healing
Research shows that the most important protective resource to enable a child to heal from violence is a strong relationship with a caring, positive adult – most often a non-offending parent.
- A strong bond with significant adult
Support the building and strengthening of relationships between children and their non-offending parents; be a supportive and significant adult in children’s lives.
- A sense of safety
Support the creation of physically and emotionally safe home, school, agency and community environments for children.
- Structure, limits, predictability
Support home, agency, school and community environments where children have structure and limits and can predict their interactions.
- Strong community and family relationships
Support the building and strengthening of family and community relationships including with siblings.
- Support for feelings/ Kids being kids
Create safe places for children to express their feelings about the domestic violence, are encouraged to be children and not given adult responsibilities.
- Counseling/Support Groups/Community Resources
Reach out to your local domestic violence program to find out what supportive resources are available for children who experience domestic violence.
- Contact with battering parent only if it is safe and doesn’t interfere with healing
Advocate for safe contact with battering parents which does not interfere with children’s healing. Support the use of supervised visitation programs and services.
For children and teens
- Bursting the Bubble – www.burstingthebubble.com
This is a great Canadian website for teens and preteens about domestic violence, child abuse, and sexual abuse. It has children’s stories, definitions, facts, and a whole section on ‘What I Can Do’.
- KIDS – Is There Fighting In Your Home? (Brochure)
- (PDF) Helping Children Thrive / Supporting Woman Abuse Survivors as Mothers: A Resource to Support Parenting (2004) by Linda Baker and Alison Cunningham. This 76-page resource, developed with funding from the Ontario Women’s Directorate in Canada, is written for service providers assisting women who have survived domestic violence. These materials may be helpful for domestic violence programs, children’s mental health centers, child protection agencies, and educators.
- Honor Our Voices An innovative online training program that aims to elevate children’s voices, so that service providers may better hear, understand, and respond to the children and families they serve.
- Reading list for children and domestic violence.
- More downloads about Children and Teens are available under Publications.