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Domestic Violence: The Effects on Children

Children can be exposed to domestic violence in many ways. They may witness or be victims of a physical assault. Many children are affected by simply hearing threats, regardless of whether it results in physical injury. Children living through domestic violence are at increased risk of becoming direct victims of child abuse. Domestic violence poses a serious threat to children's emotional, psychological, and physical well-being.

Feelings Children May Have About Domestic Violence
  • Guilt (Somehow I caused the abuse, or I didn't stop the abuse)

  • Anger (Why do they get so mad?)

  • Frustration (I have problems too and no one cares)

  • Worry (Are they going to be okay?)

  • Fear (Am I going to be hurt too?)

  • Confusion (Sometimes I love my parents and sometimes I am mad...)

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Beliefs Children Might Have About Domestic Violence
  • Violence gets you what you want

  • Victims are to blame for violence

  • When people hurt others, they do not get in trouble

  • People who love you can also hurt you

  • You have two choices - to be the victim or be the aggressor

  • Unhealthy, unequal relationships are normal and to be expected

Working With Children...

If you are concerned about your children and their responses to domestic violence, here are some tips on how the address the situation you are in with your children.


  • Although it may be difficult to talk to your children about it, tell them the truth about the abuse. Children are aware of what is happening in their home, and addressing what is occurring is important.

  • Answer their questions in an honest and age appropriate way.

  • Acknowledge the loss they may be feeling.

  • Have adult discussions with adults.

  • Discuss boundaries with your children. When children are exposed to domestic violence it is important to discuss what is and is not acceptable behavior.

  • Help children understand they are not responsible for the abuse and it is not their job to stop it.

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