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Behind Closed Doors

Icon_004The Impact of Domestic Violence on Children!


What do children need? We know the answer from our own childhoods. First and foremost, children need a safe and secure home, free of violence, and parents that love and protect them. They need to have a sense of routine and stability, so that when things go wrong in the outside world, home is a place of comfort, help and support.

For too many children, home is far from a safe haven. Every year, hundreds of millions of children are exposed to domestic violence at home, and this has a powerful and profound impact on their lives and hopes for the future.1 These children not only watch one parent violently assaulting another, they often hear the distressing sounds of violence, or may be aware of it from many telltale signs.

“Me and my sister are scared,” says one nine-year-old girl who lives in a violent home in the Bronx. “Our parents fight a lot and we fear they might split up. They fight when we’re upstairs. They don’t think we know what’s going on, but we do.”

Violence in the home is one of the most pervasive human rights challenges of our time. It remains a largely hidden problem that few cities, communities or families openly confront. Violence in the home is not limited by geography, ethnicity, or status; it is a global  phenomenon.

Some of the biggest victims of domestic violence are the smallest.

The devastating effects of domestic violence on women are well documented. Far less is known about the impact on children who witness a parent or caregiver being subjected to violence. These children – the forgotten victims of violence in the home – today focus is on our children.

The findings show that children who are exposed to violence in the home may suffer a range of severe and lasting effects. Children who grow up in a violent home are more likely to be victims of child abuse. Those who are not direct victims have some of the same behavioral and psychological problems as children who are themselves physically abused.

Children who are exposed to violence in the home may have difficulty learning and limited social skills, exhibit violent, risky or delinquent behavior, or suffer from depression or severe anxiety. Children in the earliest years of life are particularly vulnerable: studies show that domestic violence is more prevalent in homes with younger children than those with older children.

Defining ‘Violence in the Home’

Domestic violence or intimate partner violence is a pattern of assaultive and coercive behaviors including physical, sexual and psychological attacks, as well as economic coercion used by adults or adolescents against their current or former intimate partners.

Examples of physical abuse include slapping, shaking, beating with fist or object, strangulation, burning, kicking and threats with a knife. Sexual abuse includes coerced sex through threats or intimidation or through physical force, forcing unwanted sexual acts, forcing sex in front of others and forcing sex with others.

Psychological abuse involves isolation from others, excessive jealousy, control of his or her activities, verbal aggression, intimidation through destruction of property, harassment or stalking, threats of violence and constant belittling and humiliation.

An unspoken problem, with no easy answers.

Although men are sometimes victims, the vast majority are women. At least one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex, or abused in some other way – most often by someone she knows, including by her husband or another male family member. One woman in four has been abused during her pregnancy.

Domestic violence can happen anywhere but certain factors seem to increase its likelihood. These include the age of the mother (the younger the mother, the more likely she will become a victim), poverty and unemployment, and alcohol and substance abuse. One study found that women who lived with heavy drinkers were five times more likely to be assaulted by  their partners than those who lived with non-drinkers.

Little is known about the full extent of the problem.

Anecdotally it is known that growing up with violence in the home is a devastating experience for many children across the world. Yet, little is known about the full extent of the problem. Answers are difficult to find on even the most basic aspects of the problem, such as:

  • What are the effects of violence in the home on children?
  •  How many children are affected around the country?
  •  What can be done to make a difference?

In an effort to find definitive information on the impact of domestic violence on children, a new partnership was formed between Project drive and nycdv to document the nature and extent of various forms of violence against children. This is Project drive and nycdv first partnership to document the impact of domestic violence on children.

It will conclude with key actions that must be taken to better support and protect the forgotten victims of violence in the home.

This exciting partnership provides an opportunity to highlight a hidden issue and to make a call for action on behalf of children, creating momentum for Stopping Violence in the Home  and  to protect children from all forms of violence.


Rest assured, when you contribute to NYC domestic violence, one hundred percent of your generous donation will be used for charitable purposes. All members of the organisation work totally voluntarily and receive no remuneration or compensation.