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Domestic violence affects children, too

If you are a victim of domestic violence, you may be so preoccupied with avoiding the blows coming your way that you haven't considered the effect the abuse has on your children. While that may be understandable to an extent, as a parent, you don't have that luxury. Your kids have to come first.

In home environments where domestic violence is the norm, children are in danger of also suffering physical abuse. Even when they aren't, the emotional effects of bearing witness to the trauma takes its toll. Annually, it's estimated that no fewer than 3.3 million minor children are witnesses to incidents of domestic violence.

Kids who grow up in homes around suffer physical abuse or neglect at a rate that is 1500 percent higher than the general population's national average. A study of over 900 children living in shelters for battered women determined that almost 70 of the kids had themselves been neglected or physically abused.

There is a causal link between domestic violence and abuse and neglect of children, and the courts are now recognizing that domestic violence plays a role in child custody decisions. Kids living in homes where domestic violence happens can be "collateral damage" and get hurt by weapon or thrown household items. Babies and toddlers in their mothers' arms can suffer injuries from batterers in the heat of the moment, and older kids often jump into the fray in an attempt to protect their mothers.

Another way that domestic violence negatively impacts children is the enhanced risk of juvenile delinquency or substance abuse. Even when those factors don't emerge, an emotional toll is taken on the kids, including:

-- Feeling anxious

-- Experiencing guilt at being unable to prevent the abuse or for loving the parent that abuses their mother

-- Fear of abandonment

If you and your children are victims of domestic abuse, call the police and seek advice from a Massachusetts family law attorney about filing for a restraining order.

Source: CrisisCenter.org, "Effects of Domestic Violence on Children," accessed Sep. 23, 2016

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