Effects on Children

How Domestic Violence Impacts Children

Most people think of domestic violence as fighting between adults that live together, with one person usually being abused or mistreated. Many people do not realize that children who witness domestic violence can be victims themselves and are always negatively impacted by witnessing violence. In Utah, the commission of domestic violence in the presence of a child is legally considered an act of child abuse. (Utah Code 76-5-109.1)

Children can be threatened with injury or may be traumatized by seeing violence between parents. It is not unusual for a child to also be injured and/or caught up in the middle of a domestic fight. Children often develop intense fears and feel helpless because they are unable to protect a parent from abuse. Children sometimes blame themselves for not preventing the violence or the child may feel he/she caused the problem to begin with. Children in these situations often end up abused or neglected.

HELPING CHILDREN IMPACTED BY DOMESTIC ABUSE

Lifelong Impact on Children

Children who grow up in families with domestic violence are impacted for life. However, the harmful cycle of violence can be broken. Ending the violence requires a strong commitment from both the community and the family.

What Parents Can Do to Help Their Children

Safety Plan

If you have a spouse or partner who is violent, it is important to have a safety plan for yourself and your children. As part of a child's safety plan, the following should be discussed:

  1. Instruct children to stay out of parent's fights. (They may get seriously injured.)
  2. Agree on a safe place to go if there is a serious fight. (Such as a friend or neighbor's house.)
  3. Decide who they should call for help. Have them practice picking up the phone to call for help.
  4. Make sure they know their own address and phone number.
  5. If they are at home and feel unsafe, help them figure out where they can go to feel safe.

Additional Ways to Help Children

In addition:

  • Encourage children to talk honestly about family violence, what they have seen and heard and their feelings and fears.
  • Encourage them to speak with other adults for support such as teachers, relatives, neighbors, etc.
  • Listen to your children. Do not talk too much or explain away the violence.
  • Maintain and create family routines (chores, meals, naps, bedtimes), rules and non-violent discipline.
  • Take time out when your children are really getting to you. For example: count to ten or go to your room.
  • Make time for their favorite relaxing activities such as storybooks, quiet music, walks, play dough or baking.
  • Do something relaxing and special for yourself. Children follow your example.