- Children are estimated to make up more than 35% of the shelter population
- Children in homes where domestic violence occurs are physically abused or seriously neglected at a rate 1500% higher than the national average in the general population
- Witnessing violence between one’s parents or caretakers is the strongest risk factor of transmitting violent behavior from one generation to the next
Potential Effects on Children
Children experiencing and witnessing domestic violence deal with lifelong effects of the emotional trauma of the violence and its aftermath. The effects are wide and varied:
- Most experts believe that children who are raised in abusive homes learn that violence is an effective way to resolve conflicts and problems.
- The emotional consequences of viewing or hearing violent acts are severe and long-lasting. In fact, children who witness violence often experience many of the same symptoms and lasting effects as children who are victims of violence themselves.
- Children growing up in violent homes often feel they are responsible for the abuse and may feel guilty because they think they caused it or because they are unable to stop it.
- Studies show that frequent exposure to domestic violence is a significant risk factor for depression in young adulthood.
What Can We Do?
Children who are exposed to violence in the home need to know that they are not alone and that the violence is not their fault. They need to know that things can change, that the violence can end and that there is hope for the future. Other ways adults can help children cope and manage the trauma of domestic violence include:
- Close, dependable relationships can help children reduce the stress of living in a violent home. Children who have an adult who gives them love, warmth, and attentive care cope better than those who do not.
- Violence in the home can turn a child’s world upside down. Routines such as going to school and participating in recreational activities are vital for children’s development and well-being.
- Children exposed to violence in the home must have places to go that are safe and supportive.
- Children need to learn that domestic violence is wrong and learn non-violent methods of resolving conflicts.
- Children need adults to speak out and break the silence about child abuse and domestic violence.
“My happiest moment was our first night here. Because I felt safe and knew my mom was happy too.”