The frequency and severity of domestic violence can vary dramatically, but the unfortunate physical, emotional and psychological damage that can be caused by it can last a lifetime and often passes from parent to child, creating a cycle of abuse. An estimated 30 to 60 percent of people who commit violence against their intimate partner are also violent towards their children.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in 15 children are exposed to intimate partner violence each year, and 90% of these children are eyewitnesses to this violence. Witnessing violent behavior has a huge impact on a child's health and can increase a child's risk for developing anxiety and sleep disorders as an adult. It can also lead to mental and behavioral health issues including, higher levels of anger, disobedience and withdrawal. Witnessing domestic violence is also a major contributor to it becoming passed from one generation to the next. Boys who witness domestic violence are twice as likely to abuse their own children when they become adults, according to the Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Unfortunately, it is not always easy to know if someone is abusive in the early stages of a relationship. Abusers tend to become increasingly more abusive and controlling over time. It may start subtly with name-calling, threats, possessiveness, or distrust. It might be easy to dismiss or downplay this behavior at first, especially if the person is apologetic, but eventually it will escalate to extreme control and abuse, including intimidation, threats, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or emotional abuse.
The abuse inflicted by the perpetrator can cause victims of domestic abuse to experience a variety of emotional responses, both while in the relationship and once they leave. Since the victim knows the abuser best, it is important for them to think carefully through their situation and circumstances and do what is the best for themselves.
For support and assistance in finding helpful resources, call the Families First Support Line (877-695-7996).
Find out more about domestic violence at ncadv.org.
For anonymous, confidential help, 24/7, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY).