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Adult Domestic Violence and Abuse Harms Children

Acts of domestic violence have serious consequences for the adults involved. However, it is important to remember that domestic violence between the adults in their lives can cause serious harm to children, whether or not the children are directly involved in the violent acts.

Domestic violence is defined as a pattern of physical, emotional, sexual, and/or financial abuse used to establish control over a domestic partner, or other household member.  It is well known that physical abuse of children can cause wide ranging physical and emotional harm to children.  Equally well established, when a  child’s parent, or their parent’s partner, engages in abusive behavior, the child can be damaged even if the abusive party never touches them.  Such damage can be caused just by witnessing the abuse or being used as a means to control the victim.

Unfortunately, children often witness violence between adults.  While many parents try to shield their children from the abuse, research shows that children in violent households are overwhelmingly aware of the abuse.  Even if they don’t see the violence itself, children may hear screaming, crying, breaking of glass or furniture and often see the victim’s injuries or damage to the home.  Children are also aware of the tension between parents or one parent’s fear of the other.  New Mexico law enforcement reports show that children are too often present when they arrive to investigate domestic violence calls.

Beyond physical and emotional damage, domestic violence can cause other problems for a child, including having to flee a home to escape domestic violence, which may not only deprive the child of a roof over their heads but may prevent them from access to education and medical care.  A parent may not enroll their children in school or take them to the doctor in order to avoid being found by their abuser.

In addition, domestic violence is one of the main reasons why adolescents run away from home and leads to homelessness among many victims as well as their children.  Moreover, in certain cases, the child can be removed from a victim’s care if a court or child protective service finds that the victim failed to protect the child from violence.

There are many ways that an abuser will deliberately involved the children in a pattern of domestic violence.  An abuser may use children in a variety of ways to control their adult victim.  For instance, an adult may abuse the other adult in the presence of the children on purpose so exert control over the victim and the child.  The abuser may go so far as to encourage or force the child to participate in the abuse  by threatening to hurt the child, the child’s pet or other important possession in order to control their victim.

When there is an incident of violence, the abuser may take the child in order to prevent the victim from leaving the home or filing for divorce.  Children may continue to be used even after the couple no longer lives together where a partner engages in lengthy high conflict child custody disputes. The abuser may even kidnap the children.  A parent may also use their time with the children to abuse them or interrogate them extensively on the other parent’s activities or otherwise engage in parental alienation.

Domestic violence has serious and overwhelming effect on children that can have a lasting impact on the child’s life and development.  Studies show that children who are raised around domestic violence are more likely to become either victims or abusers in adulthood. In order to stop the cycle of domestic violence, it is vital to report domestic violence and seek help for victims and children of domestic violence, as well as treatment for abusers.

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