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10/17/2022

Domestic Violence and Children: How can you protect their interests?

Every year Domestic Violence Awareness Month is held throughout the month of October.  Domestic Violence, otherwise known as Intimate Partner violence, takes many forms, including acts of physical violence, sexual violence, financial abuse and verbal aggression.  These acts can have lasting effects on the parties involved; however, what can often go unnoticed is the affect domestic violence has on the children who bear witness to these acts firsthand.

A child’s sense of self and the world around them continues to be developed well into their teenage years, and they are often a culmination of the best and worst things that happen between school and their homes.  A child’s parents can both intentionally and unintentionally shape their child’s experiences, which means parents must be especially careful that their actions do not harm their children.  For children who grow up in homes where intimate partner violence exists, the negative impact of such violence may be evident through constant bed-wetting, increased crying, difficulty sleeping, depression and aggressive behavior.  As they grow older, these children are at greater risk of repeating the cycle and/or developing physical and mental health problems that stem from their prolonged trauma.  According to the Childhood Domestic Violence Association, children who experience childhood domestic violence are six-times more likely to commit suicide, 50% more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol, and 74% more likely to commit a violence crime.

As such, parents should implement the following measures to protect their child’s well-being:

  1. Create distractions: Recognize that even the slightest arguments can have lasting effects on a child’s perception and behavior.  If you and your partner are on the brink of a heated debate, distract your children by placing headphones over their ears and playing their favorite song, or retreating to a different part of the home where they may not be able to hear your conversation.  This prevents the child from being privy to your conversations and keeps them entertained until the discussion is complete.
  2. Avoid placing children at the center of ongoing conflicts: Time and again, co-parents may resort to funneling messages through children to aggravate or upset one another, or they may tell children information about their co-parents that may affect how children view one or both of their parents.  Children are not pawns in a game of chess.  Whether it be acts of domestic violence or ongoing litigation (related to an act of violence, divorce, custody dispute, etc.), children should not be made aware of the affairs that will affect their parents until they are of suitable age to understand how it affects them.  Instead of placing children at the center of a conflict, try creating boundaries around them.
  3. Seek third-party assistance for children: Children require outlets to release their energy and frustrations just as adults do.  Whether a child witnesses intimate partner violence firsthand or simply suspects that it exists, they will require assistance from a third-party, namely a counselor, family member, family friend, or therapist to work through their thoughts with them.  The more children bottle up their emotions, the more likely they will be to succumb to their stressors in the future.  By placing their thoughts in the care of a trusted professional or family member, parents can actively alleviate those stressors that are caused by traumatizing in-home experiences.

Of course, there is no perfect way to prevent children from the harm caused by domestic violence.  But it is helpful to remain sensitive to the development of children who are in or around domestic conflicts.  Children spend a great deal of their time at home.  Thus, it is important to keep them safe within their home environments.  Continue to remind them that any abuse they witness is not their fault and seek guidance from DV professionals where necessary.  It can only prove to benefit the child in the long-run.

If you, or someone you know, is a target of domestic violence, reach out to the National Domestic Violence Hotline at https://www.thehotline.org/ or 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

If you have any questions about this article or any Family Law issue, please contact Geoffrey Witherspoon, Esq. at gwitherspoon@c-wlaw.com or (202) 280-2275.

 

Disclaimer

The information in this article is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction.  By reading this article, you understand that there is no attorney-client relationship between you and Cipriani & Werner, P.C. or any of our attorneys.  No information contained in this article should be construed as legal advice from Cipriani & Werner, P.C. or the individual authors.