Children and Domestic Violence

Children are often witnesses and/or victims of domestic violence, and it is important to understand the impact and effects of domestic violence on children. Supportive and timely intervention and education can help increase safety and prevent longer term impacts from affecting the child as an adolescent or adult.

If you have a child or know of a child who needs help, get in touch with our Children's Program.

Frequently Asked Questions on the Prevalence of Child Exposure to Domestic Violence

Q: How many children are exposed to domestic abuse each year?

A: About 7 million American children live in homes with ongoing severe domestic violence, including beatings, burnings, use of weapons, rape and sexual abuse/assault. (DeBoard-Lucas)

Q: Are the children aware of the abuse?

A: Yes. Almost 90% of children in homes with domestic violence witness the violence in some way. Although parents tend to report that their child does not know about the abuse, children are very likely to report knowledge of specific incidents. (Fusco)

Q: Younger children are more often exposed to events of domestic abuse than older children. (Ybarra)

A: More than ¾ of children exposed to domestic violence were involved in the event. They may have been a victim themselves, physically intervened, sought help (such as contacting 911 or a neighbor), or been physically close to the mother while she was being abused. (Fusco)

Prevalence of Other Forms of Abuse

  • Between 30-70% of children witnessing domestic violence are also abused themselves. (Sullivan)
  • Close to 50% of men who abuse women are abusive towards their own children or the children they live with. (Murrell)
  • Men who abuse their partners are more likely to sexually abuse their children or the children living with them. (Holt)


Children exposed to violence are:

  • 3 times more likely than their peers to abuse or become dependent on a large range of substances. (Kilpatrick)
  • 15 times more likely to be physically abused or neglected at home than children not exposed to domestic abuse. (Holt)
  • More likely to have many serious health issues. (Fellitti)

A child who was physically assaulted in the past year is:

  • 5 times as likely to also have been sexually victimized, and more than 4 times as likely to have been mistreated during that period. (Finkelhor)
  • A child who was physically assaulted during his or her lifetime is:
  • More than 6 times as likely to have been sexually victimized.
  • More likely to become pregnant as a teen. (Herrenkohl)
  • More likely to drop out of school as a teen. (Herrenkohl)

If you know of a child who is exposed to domestic violence, contact Safe Passage for information on how you can help.