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Long- and short-term impact of domestic violence on children

Being in a violent relationship is something that no person should have to endure. Sadly, millions of people experience physical, emotional and financial abuse at the hands of a partner every year. In these situations, getting out of the relationship can be crucial.

Sadly, this is far easier said than done, particularly when there are children involved. Sharing children with someone abusive can make a person scared to leave and lose whatever support the other person provides. They might think they are protecting their kids by putting on a brave face and avoiding the difficulty and contention of a divorce. However, children can endure severe short- and long-term effects of being exposed to domestic violence.

According to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, children can respond almost immediately to violence in the home by:

  • Becoming anxious
  • Being unable to sleep
  • Exhibiting hyperactive behaviors
  • Becoming aggressive

These reactions can stem from the fear of what's happening at home. Children also are very likely to mimic behaviors they are exposed to. This means the can become increasingly withdrawn, violent or destructive.

In the long term, children exposed to domestic violence are at an increased risk of:

  • Becoming an abuser
  • Suffering from depression
  • Experiencing serious health problems

No two children are alike, and every child feels and responds to these situations differently. While it is possible that your children isn't or won't exhibit all these emotional and behavioral consequences of witnessing abuse, the fact is that he or she is at a higher risk of experiencing them than children who are not in these situations.

When you take all these troubling consequences of witnessing violence into consideration, it might make it a little easier to come to terms with the fact that staying in a violent relationship to keep the family together is not in the best interests of children.

Protecting them and yourself from domestic abuse and violence can be the best thing you can do as a parent. Of course it is not easy, but with legal protection, support and resources, victims of physical, sexual, emotional and/or financial abuse can get the help they need to get out of a dangerous situation. 

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