Awareness of the correlation between domestic violence and child abuse has grown because of recent high-profile cases in the media. This attention highlights the effects domestic violence can have on families and children.

According to the Virginia Department of Social Services, as many as 3 million children witness domestic violence each year nationwide. In families where domestic violence occurs, child abuse is 15 times more likely to occur.

Caretakers often believe they are protecting their children from witnessing abuse within the home, however 80%-90% of children in homes where domestic violence occurs, can provide detailed accounts of the violence.

The effects of domestic violence on children can range from cognitive and attitudinal problems such as poor school performance and acceptance of violent behaviors and attitudes, to behavioral, social and emotional problems. Children may express higher levels of aggression and hostility, along with poor relationships and low self-esteem.

Studies have shown that children who are abused or witness abuse are also at a higher risk of becoming violent themselves, particularly toward their own children and/or spouses. Additionally, approximately 30% of abused and neglected children will eventually victimize their own children, according to a study by Prevent Child Abuse New York.

Within SCAN’s programs, the reported percentage of families experiencing domestic violence is about 40-45%. When counselors assess the presence of domestic violence during the intake process for the Family Support Program (FSP), they support and empower survivors to seek resources such as domestic violence counseling or groups, and safety planning. This involves referrals to local agencies and case management for follow up.

In FSP parenting groups, the impact of domestic violence on adult survivors as well as the impact on childhood development is explored and education is provided. The reverberating impacts of domestic violence on children is explored in the form of trauma responses that vary from behavioral disturbances, emotional disorders and problematic relationships. Group facilitators monitor how parents are navigating these effects during the course and make appropriate referrals or reports when child safety is a concern.


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