Children and Domestic Violence Public Policy

Domestic violence rarely has only one victim. Children are often present when their mothers are beaten 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.

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.

Protecting Children

Women who are battered often go to extreme lengths to protect their children from an abusive partner. Research has shown that the non-abusing parent is often the strongest protective factor in the lives of children who witness domestic violence. However, witnessing domestic violence can make children less likely to succeed in school, more likely to suffer and commit violence, and more likely to face a host of health problems that can last throughout their lives. In spite of this, we know that when properly identified and addressed, the effects of domestic violence on children can be mitigated.


Improving the response for children who witness domestic violence requires legislation that enables collaboration and cross-training between social service agencies and domestic violence organizations; funds multi-system interventions; provides early interventions for children who witness violence; and reaches young men and boys with anti-violence messages and support. FUTURES supports legislation that provides for early intervention and support to children who witness domestic violence.

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