The Impact of Domestic Violence on Children

February 20, 2006 – Posted at 4:39 p.m. CST

JONESBORO, AR -- Each year, an estimated 3.3 million children are exposed to violence by family members against their mothers or female caretakers. When we think of domestic violence we often forget about its detrimental effects on children... damage that can have immediate and long term consequences.

Domestic violence can be classified as physical, emotional, verbal or sexual abuse. For children, it can cause a lifetime of confusion and pain.

"They feel like they need to protect to their mom, but they still love their father. And that's a tremendously difficult situation for a child to be in," said Rebecca Barron of the Arkansas Counseling Associates.

The Women's Crisis Center in Jonesboro helps more than just battered women. At least half of all mothers who come to the women's crisis center bring their children with them, and for children of all ages, it can be an unsettling experience not knowing what to expect.

"Children who grow up in these homes do not have the luxury of understanding what it means to feel safe in their home. They don't know what it means to have predictability in their home. As a matter of fact, the thing that is predictable is that things are going to be unpredictable," said Barron.

40-60% of men who abuse women also abuse children, and it can become a vicious cycle...the abused growing up to become abusers. But therapist believe help can never come too soon.

"You kind of have to teach these children what a normal relationship is supposed to be like. They don't learn that. They don't learn how to be able to give and receive affection. They don't learn how to give and receive attention from people," said Barron.

In homes where domestic violence occurs, children are 1,500 times more likely to be abused...the crisis center hopes to change that.

According to research published by the American Psychological Association, fathers who batter mothers are twice as likely to seek sole physical custody of their children than are non-violent fathers.