Domestic violence rarely has only one victim. Children are often present when their mothers are abused by husbands or boyfriends -- slightly more than half of female victims of domestic violence live in households with children under age twelve. In fact, studies suggest that 15.5 million children witness domestic violence annually and by age 17, over 1/3 of America’s children will have been exposed to domestic violence. The overlap between domestic violence and child abuse has been well documented: in a national survey of more than 6,000 American families, 50 percent of the men who frequently assaulted their wives also frequently abused their children.
The ramifications of this exposure can be devastating and long lasting. Impacts include fractured relationships, poor academic success, and host of health problems that can last long into adulthood. Many of these children can do better and even thrive with support and healing. We need a call to action to support children who live with domestic violence and to find new strategies to prevent exposure from happening in the first place. Everyone has a role to play- families, neighbors, clergy, coaches, health practitioners, educators and the child welfare and criminal justice system all can support children and create viable messages and programs to help them achieve well-being. The single most important factor to protect children and to increase their resistance to harm is the presence of a loving, protective adult. Using this important principle, the Children’s Program at Futures Without Violence, formerly Family Violence Prevention Fund, designs and delivers programs and policies to ensure a better tomorrow for children.