Children Exposed to Domestic Violence
Betsy McAlister Groves, Dr. David Finkelhor  -  2006/10/25
Our law no longer requires mandatory reporting by health care professionals of domestic violence when a victim presents for examining, attending or treating even if the dv occurred in the presence of a child. However, we still can require any person to report child abuse if there is a reasonable belief of harm or threatened harm. I'm just trying to get a sense of how other states handle this situation. For instance, should folks report even if the child was upstairs asleep during the dv or only if a determination can be made that the child was in harm's way? We are having a problem even reaching a consensus among state professionals.
1.  sheilaroach
 Is this a state by state law or national? I believe in New York State there is an obligation to report.
2.  David Finkelhor
 This is a public policy issue that is going to be in flux for some time. We should be urging states to conduct evaluations of alternative practices in this area, so that we can base decisions on evidence of outcomes for children and families.
I am a DA based Advocate in Oregon. I have been looking for an easy to read, clear, one page bulletin explaining some of the effects of a child living with Domestic Violence. I want to send this to Parents who are victims of DV. It is in hopes that even if they are willing to put up with the abuse on themselves, they may not be willing to allow their children to be effected. But they need to have an understanding that DV does have short and long term effects on their children. Thank you
1.  Dody
 Pat & Therese, my email is , my fax number is (541) 426-6128. I really appreciate both of you sending me information. I will check out the other recommendations also. I want to thank all of you for your time and your work!! Dody
2.  Betsy Groves
 1.The London Court Clinic in London Ontario has excellent materials on the effects on children of domestic violence. Their website is http:www.lfcc.on.caOther websites that have PDF versions of fact sheets on this topic are: http:www.endabuse.orgresourcesfactsChildren.pdf and http:www.fvlc.orgpdf_fvlcEnglish_ChildrenDV.pdf. The website has a series of guides about helping children exposed to domestic violence. One of their guides Interventions with Children Exposed to Domestic Violence : A guide for professionals is particularly good. A handout on page 19 outlines the effects of DV according to age. All of these guides can be downloaded Finally, my program, The Child Witness to Violence Project at Boston Medical Center has a pamphlet called Raising Children in a Violent World that is written for parents and includes an overview of common symptoms of exposure to domestic violence, guidelines for parents about when to be concerned and how to talk with their children. They are available in English and Spanish. If you are interested in receiving a copy of this brochure, please contact Andrea Chiros at
3.  Pat
 I have information that you are looking for I am a child advocate at a DV Agency- send addresss or fax
4.  David Finkelhor
 Growing up in a violent home, like growing up with other adverse family problems such as alcoholism, increases the odds that family members are at greater risk of long-term effects such as emotional distress, anxiety, behavioral problems such as aggression and bullying, problems in school, and possibly more health problems. But there is no 100 certainty of harm. A lot depends on other conditions in the household such as whether a mother is able to be protective and nurturing, the severity and chronicity of the childs exposure violence, and whether the child is experiencing other types of abuse at home, school or in the community.For a good one page handout on The Effects of Family Violence on Children, and other information, go the website for the Family Violence Prevention Fund: http:endabuse.orgprogramsdisplay.php3?DocID150My colleague Glenda Kaufman Kantor helped in this response.
5.  thereseND
 I do have a handout that we use in our Offender Treatment Program, and I often use it when doing Public Education. It contains physical, emotional, developmental and behavioral effects of DV on children of different ages. I can fax this to you if you have fax number
Are there any creative ways to charge cases to hold offenders accountable when they expose children to DV? Any model protocols?
1.  kristina
 I'm looking more for actual charges to bring against the person exposing the child to violence
2.  David Finkelhor
 Another important response to this issue is court ordered treatment of batterers using programs which include a strong fathering component. For example see: Accountability and Connection with Abusive Men: A new Child Protection Response to Increasing Family Safety. By Fernando Mederos with the Massachusetts Department of Social Services Domestic Violence Unit.
3.  David Finkelhor
 The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges has been working on these issues along with the national Greenbook Initiative. There have been national training initiatives for Judges (see for example, Judges Toolbox Executive Summary which should be available online at the Greenbook Initiative website or at the National Council website). Also see the Grafton County, NH Court Guide protocols developed as part of the Greenbook initiative (a multisystem collaboration to improve response to domestic violence and child maltreatment):http:www.thegreenbook.infografton.htmGlenda Kaufman Kantor helped with this response.
I work with a lot of single parents where the abusive partner has partial custody. Do you have any recommendations for how to help the children transition from one home to the other home each week? Clients often report an hour or more of aggressive or highly emotional behavior when the child returns to their home. Would you discuss ways the parent can help the child with this going back and forth? (assuming all possible reporting of and precaustions against child abuse have been taken) Thank you.
1.  Betsy Groves
 Our advice to parents includes the following:Prepare the child for what will happen ahead of time. Be as specific as possible: This afternoon Dad is coming to get you after school. You will spend the afternoon at his house, and then after dinner he will bring you back to my house and we will can read a book before you go to bed. Try to be comforting and matter-of-fact about the visit. Children are very good at picking up on a parents anxiety. It is normal that parents may be anxious or upset about the visit, but to the extent possible, avoid sharing your worries or frustrations with your child. When the child returns home, make sure there is down-time. The child will need time to adjust, to transition. Dont try homework or schedule other activities. Use transitional objects or activities to ease the transition. For example, a parent might ask a child if there is a book or a toy that heshe wants to take to Dads house to play with. This object can serve as a reminder of the parent, of the home environment and functions as a security blanket. Similarly, when the child returns home, you may provide a snack, a chance to watch a favorite TV show, or something else that is relaxing, nurturing and stress-free. To the extent possible, both parents should work together to provide as smooth a transition as is possible for the child. This, of course, is a challenge and is sometimes impossible if there is no communication or if the abusing parent does not agree that it is an issue, blames the non-offending parent, etc. If there is a therapist, family servicesvisitation worker, or parent coordinator involved, this becomes the job of that person to bridge the communication between the parents and to look out for the childs best interest.
2.  Betsy Groves
 I will answer this question with two postings..This is a concern that many parents have voiced to us. We talk with parents about the fact that many children do have difficulties with transitions---not just between parental homes, but with transitions to school, to a new activity or environment. Children have different temperaments and styles of adapting to new experiences. We ask parents to think about and talk about their childrens general adaptation styles and about how parents have helped their children with other transitions. We know, also that age and developmental stage are important when thinking about a childs capacity to deal with transitions. It is very different for a one-year-old to adjust to a new environment than a 10-year-old. So, thinking about a plan that is right for the age of the child is important.
(1) do you have any tips on how to help the abused parent--who has left the abusive relationship--minimize the effects on the children who will likely continue to see the abuser? (This question assumes there has been no direct abuse of the children.) (2) what argument would you present to the children's attorney and/or judge in a Family Court case that the abusive parent should NOT see the children even where he has not been directly abusive of those children and the other parent states that he is a great father?
1.  Betsy Groves
 Probably the most important thing a parent can do is to maintain open lines of communication with their children, so that children feel comfortable talking with the parent about their experiences. The parent can also ask the child about hisher feelings or opinions about the visittaking care to address specific concerns that the child may have. The parent should make sure that the child feels safe. Many parents have their own strong feelings about the visits and about the abuser. To the extent possible, a parent should try to be aware of her feelings about the visit and keep them separate from what the child needs or feels. For example, the child may wish to see the absent parent when the non-offending parent does not want this to happen. Acknowledging the childs needs can be important. If you as a professional believe that the visits are not in the child's best interest or are persistently upsetting for the child, you should advocate for that child, in terms of modification of the visits or additional support to the family. Part 2. A child does not have to be physically abused to experience traumatic stress. If a child witnesses the injury or threatened injury to a parent, this may evoke the same intense traumatic stress as direct abuse. This has been corroborated by several research studies which I will post at a later date. IN those cases, I would strongly recommend an evaluation of the child to determine the extent of the trauma, before visits are begun.
What factors help children to be resilient? How can communities help?
1.  Cora Peterson
 The research we provide our clients is heavy on teaching that the non-offending adult parent needs to be very supportive of the children, explain that nothing was their fault, that it is okay if they still love the perpetrator, but that the behaviors exhibited by the perpetrator or not right and that they need help. Letting the children express their feelings, letting them reveal that info to people they trust and to maintain a safe supportive relationship with them is the most helpful.
2.  Betsy Groves
 Protective factors for children are found at the individual, family and community level. In order to promote resilience, we should assess and build upon child strengths at each of these levels. Providers can promote strong caregiver-child relationships which strengthens a childs ability to cope with stress, to achieve in school, to form strong peer relationships. Providers in early child care, after- school, and teachers are in a strong position to support parents and children, and to provide healthy adult relationships to both parents and children. At the community level, connecting families with social networks, such as faith communities, parent groups and other civic organizations decreases isolation. Families also need basic supports such as health care, housing and economic supports. A useful reference is Promoting Resilience: Helping Young Children and Parents Affected by Substance, Domestic Violence and Depression in the Context of Welfare Reform Available from the National Center for Children in Poverty: .
3.  kathya
 Community awareness programs in the schools, afterhours programs at Boys and Girls clubs, at churches, youth groups, etc. Parenting groups with single and both parents. Activities that encourage children and youth to build feelings of self-esteem and self-worth. Also, community awareness and appreciation of elders. And, above all, knowing that they are loved and appreciated. By the individuals and the community making a coordinated effort.
The literature suggests that child abuse occurs 30-60% in homes with DV. In California, we also report emotional abuse which I suspect exists at an even higher incidence when there is DV. Please comment on the incidences of different categories of child maltreatment in homes with DV.
1.  kathya
 Having work in the dv field (victim and offender services) for over 20 years, emotional abuse is prevalent and under-reported. In fact, in the batterers programs most abusers did not recognize the emotional verbal abuse as such. And, they perpetuated it with their children.
I am sending this question concerning immigrant children who happen to be exposed to domestic violence here in the US. Working with immigrants and especially those from Africa, I have realized that most children don't report what violence they are exposed to in their homes. This, in some reasons is due to respect for authority, partriachal dominance or cultural taboos. How best do you think we can empower children to share their experiences of domestic violence at home? If they report their experiences and the perpetrator is under arrest, the victim also becomes a victim of societal shame and even an outcast from that family. Do you have any ideas how best we can handle this situation so that the child is safe in that family?
1.  Safe Start Ctr
 The following publications and organizations examine this issue in the context of culturally competent services:(1) Annie E. Casey Foundation - Family to Family,,(2) Bridging Refugee Youth and Childrens Services,, and(3) Understanding Children, Immigration, and Family Violence: A National Examination of the Issues,Family Violence Prevention Fund,http:www.esi-dc.comimmigrant. - This information has been provided to you by the Safe Start Center at
I hear there have been recent studies on this topic but don't have the research. Can you please address the correlation between domestic violence and sexual assault. Are homes with Dv more likely to also have sexual abuse issues and does living in a home with dv increase the likelihood that the children will act ot sexually?
1.  C.Doherty
 Stephanie,Thanks for the resource. The information for our study is still pretty much raw data, although much has been learned from that. It has been ongoing for about four years. Would love to talk with you if you have the time. My email address is
2.  StephanieMayer
 Check out The Batterer as Parent, by Lundy Bancroft, for a summary of recent studies. Studies have shown that batterers are 6 times more likely than non-batterers to sexually abuse children.
3.  C. Doherty
 Kim, some of that research is being done within the program where I work here in Alabama. There are many factors that correlate with sexual acting among juveniles, of which witnessing domestic violence in the home is one. What we are finding is that it supports the formation of objectification of the female and erodes respect in forming relationships. I do not participate in the research; I am a clinician. But, even in that context, it becomes quite obvious what lasting effects come from witnessing and experiencing domestic violence.
4.  StephanieMayer
 Batterers are 6 times more likely than non-batterers to sexually abuse children. It's correlated with the presence of violence, but not with severity. Other indicators include: High entitlement, self-centered, use of children to meet his needs, manipulative, seeing children as personal possessions, substance abuse, low involvement in infant care, has step-children. Summary source: Lundy Bancroft
5.  David Finkelhor
 An important longitudinal English study on the intergenerational transmission of sexual abuse found that the sexually abused boys most likely to go on to the calm perpetrators were ones who had witnessed domestic violence. Apparently the combination of early sexualization with exposure to models of aggressive behavior was particularly toxic in pushing a boy toward sexual aggression himself. I will have to get the reference and added to this posting.
6.  Heather Ariyeh
 Until recently I was a shelter coordinator. I can say from my experience that most DV victims would also report cases of SA. The problem with research in this area seems to be asking the questions right. If you just ask have you been raped people usually say no. You have to ask something like did you ever feel like you had to have sex in order to avoid violence Jennifer at the Oklahoma Coaltion has lots of good information on this.
What are some best practices in addressing the PREVENTION of children witnessing domestic violence?
1.  K Shrimplin
 If you are interested in learning more about our children exposed to DV prevention program and curriculum, please contact me at Thank you.
2.  K Shrimplin
 Thanks for the reply. The collaborative I serve, Family Violence Prevention Project (, does a children exposed to dv project where we have trained over 2,000 professionals on children exposed to dv. We are now working with home visitors of young mothers to discuss healthy relationships, dynamics, and effects of dv on children. We are finding that we have an opportunity to work with mothers who have kids 0-3 and 0-7 and these are critical times for development and effects of DV to impact. Our hope is that with the empowerment of young mothers with resources and knowledge, we can help them get id unhealthy red flags early on. We are in the process of evaluating our approach and are trying to see if knowledge and empowerment can make a difference and prevent children witnessing domestic violence.
3.  SusanRansbottom
 Could you please let us know how to get more information on the specific info on the programs mentioned in your quote below? Our jurisdiction is beginning to focus on this issue and info on successful programs would be wonderful.There are empirically supported dating violence prevention programs that may have long-term effects.
4.  StephanieMayer
 I'm confused about the question. In order to prevent exposure to battering, you must prevent battering. As an intervention or secondary prevention method, leaving the abuser would prevent further witnessing. Educating women on the effects on their children can provide powerful reasons to leave, though we also must recognize that in some situations, it's safer for the entire family to stay.Most survivors do what they can to keep their children from knowing what's going on, though the children often know even if they never see it. Prevention of domestic violence must start young, with a focus on creating an understanding of abuse, power, and control so people can recognize the signs before it escalates. Ideally, it starts REALLY young, teaching children what equity in relationships is and shaping their behaviors so that domineering, predatory thought patterns don't develop.
5.  David Finkelhor
 As far as I know there are not yet empirically validated child witnessing prevention programs. However, we can consider in principle all programs that prevent domestic violence as child witnessing prevention programs as well.There are empirically supported dating violence prevention programs that may have long-term effects. There are community level educational efforts to reduce domestic violence that may have effects. A presumption has always been that resources for battered women and aggressive law enforcement help to reduce continued exposure for adult victims, and therefore potentially for child witnesses as well.Importantly, there are suggestions that various forms of child maltreatment and domestic violence have declined over the last decade, and one possibility is that the generally increased awareness about the problem, criminal justice and social service intervention are having an effect.
Do you consider it child abuse when a child witnesses domestic violence? If so, how does that tie into the legal definition of child abuse?
1.  Jim Carpenter
 Yet in California, we are mandated to report emotional abuse and endangerment. These both may exist in homes with DV. Removal of children by CPS is not likely unless the child has been injured and is at risk for subsequent injury.
2.  Cora Peterson
 In Utah we do have a law that states any child who witnesses Domestic Violence (defined as a child who can see or hear the DV) is an abused child under the definition of Emotional Maltreatment. Law can be found at www.le.state.ut.
3.  Susan Murray
 In OaklandAlameda County California we are developing a specific protocol responding to law enacted in 2003 (1167.5 Section 13732) re: how law enforcement and child protective agencies will cooperate int heir response to incidents of domestic vioelnce in homes in which a child resides. Which protocols that have been developed would you recommend? What would you both suggest we guard against in designing the protocol, particularly re: removal of children due to risk?
4.  David Finkelhor
 The recent Nicholson and Scoppeta decision in NY related to a class action lawsuit filed in behalf of battered women involved with NYs child protective services ruled that the city violated the constitutional rights of mothers and their children by removing children solely because the mothers are victims of domestic violence.Exposure per se or the inability of a mother to protect her child from witnessing should not be regarded as maltreatment and few states currently consider exposure as per se maltreatment.See for example: Kaufman Kantor, G. & L. Little (2003). Defining the Boundaries of Child Neglect: When Does Domestic Violence Equate with Failure to Protect? Journal of Interpersonal Violence. 18(4) 338-355.Edleson , Mbilinyi, & Shetty (2003). Parenting in the Context of Domestic Violence. Sam Francisco: Judicial Council of California, Administrative Ofice of the Courts, Center for Families, Children and the Courts,Glenda Kaufman Kantor assisted in this reply.
I began to work as a volunteer with a young woman who was exposed to domestic violence and sexual assault when she was a child. She was sexually molested while living with relatives with whom she was placed. She now has two children and was recently a victim of domestic violence by the man who molested her and who is the father of the children. We relocated her to a "safe house" with her children and a female roomate who also has children. Within two weeks, she had assaulted her roomate and was taken to jail. What is the likelihood that she will abuse her own children in the future, and is there anything I could do to help her or her children as a volunteer. We have limited counseling services in the isolated village where we live.
What are the different dynamics regarding girls and boys as they cope with the experience of domestic violence? Without getting into a conversation that will rankle both "liberals and conservatives," can it not be addressed that the sexes will, in fact, cope with the victimization experience in different (not unequal) ways? That being said, what commentary can be made on how female victims are treated?
1.  Joey Bailey
 I see that quite often where I am employed as I see many other teachers unable too see that when a female student gets in trouble it may be a reaction to internalized trauma, i.e., student is written up for truancy but is absent because of ongoing victimzation and the lethargic response to a teacheradministrator demonstrates laziness and not caring about school instead of repressed trauma. Good point about externalizing and internalizing.
2.  Jane P
 That makes so much sense - thank you - I just had an aha moment. What you said also fits with the ACE study findings about internalizing adverse childhood experiences.
3.  Betsy Groves
 Boys and girls who are exposed to domestic violence may show symptoms related to their exposure in different ways, but BOTH are affected by their exposure. In other words, its not a question of who is more vulnerable, but how boys and girls may react to domestic violence differently. In general, boys tend to externalize their anxiety, and are more aggressive; girls tend to internalize, and may withdraw and be more passive in their responses. In our program., about 70 of referrals are boys. We think this is because they come to the attention of teachers, parents, etc. because their behaviors are obvious. We worry about girls being missed in terms of identification and referral.
I would like to discuss modalities of groups for children exposed to violence. Which ones have best outcomes? Is it ok to have brothers or sisters in the same group?
1.  David Finkelhor
 An excellent person to answer this question is Sandra Graham Bermann at the University of Michigan, who is doing research about the efficacy of various group formats. Here is her e-mail:
In consequence of DV, there are kids who become aggressive at school/home. They are completely identified with the aggressor.What is the best way to assist these kids? It is hard to manage a group having them with others children exposed to violence.
1.  Betsy Groves
 Aggression is one of the most common symtpoms we see in children exposed to DV. Sometimes, this aggression is not a function of identifying with the agressor as much as it is a response to feeling very fearful and vulnerable. So, it is very important to have clear rules and expectations in the group that are always connected to safety, and to use language in the group that continually refers to safety. Asking children to talk about what makes them feel safe and what makes them feel unsafe is one possible activity. It may also be necessary at times to separate a child who is overly aggressive. One resource suggests creating a peace Corner to use with such children.
many states are increasing the criminal penalty for domestic violence that occurs in the presence of a child. Do you know of the positive or negative outcomes of such a change? Thanks
1.  David Finkelhor
 In general, changes in the level of sanctions do not have much effect on the occurrence of a crime. However, that does not mean it is a bad idea. An increase in sanctions can be important in publicizing how serious a norm violation we regard something to be. This can be part of a process of raising general community awareness about the problem. This may ultimately result in less offending, but probably not in the short-term. And it would be a mistake to think that simply increasing penalties is going to by itself reduce the likelihood of people committing such crimes.
What are some of the signs that a child is being exposed to domestic violence?
1.  Betsy Groves
 Common symptoms that we see in young children affected by domestic violence:Increased aggression; sleep difficulties, a high activity level, increased separation anxiety, withdrawal from family or friends, increased somatic complaints, increased sensitivity to noises (Hyperarousal), reenacting the violent event, regressing, trouble with concentration, constant worry about danger or the safety of loved ones. One caution: children may show these symptoms for a variety of reasonsnot just exposure to domestic violence.
As a former victim of domestic violence I try to explain to police, when appropriate, that a person is not "free" from a violator for as long as that violator is alive. We live in fear for our lives seemingly forever. Could you please comment on what a victim advocate could do to give moral support to their "victim" client?
1.  Susan Murray
 I agree. If someone beat you and he was held accountable, chances are he'll feel a bit angry toward you. Retaliation fears by battered women are real, and no amount of jail time can remove that fear. Ultimately he's done his time and is let out. But how can she recover if he is out? I find this very troubling for women trying to fully recover from devastating abuse.
How can judges better help children exposed to domestic violence? What could happen during the judicial process to better improve outcomes for children.
1.  David Finkelhor
 This is an excellent question.Judges encounter these children in lots of different contexts: when handling divorces, when dealing with restraining orders, when sitting on child protection cases, when dealing with juvenile offenders, as well as when dealing with criminal complaints against abusers. Probably the most important thing judges can do is to be aware of how many children may be exposed to such violence even when that is not specifically part of the allegation in the case being reviewed. So making sure that an inquiry has occurred about this possibility can be a crucial intervention.Other things that judges can do.1) make sure that the adults are aware of the possible legal consequences that may ensue if the child is exposed in the future to DV, as a deterrent.2) make sure that the possibility has been explored for the appointment of someone to represent the needs of the child, such as a guardian ad litem.3) make sure that the legal proceedings are not carried out in a fashion that may exacerbate the child's trauma, for example, being exposed to allegations and claims for the first time that they had not been prepared to hear.All these matters can be greatly assisted by having a professional affiliated with the court who has experience in responding to children who have been exposed to DV.
I am working on a statewide DV Fatality Review Commission and we were wondering if there has there been any concrete research on the effects of domestic violence related homicides on the children who are left behind?
1.  Shea Donato
 I'm not sure when you posted this, but I just emailed you to discuss this further. I was the one who posted the original topic, and I'm helping out with the commission's report to the Montana legislature. This is one of the major areas that we are concerned about. My email is if you're interested in discussing this further. Thanks!
2.  Nancy Cline
 To find out more about the study, go to the University of Virginias School of Nursing web-page. Details are listed under the research button. Also, Im interested in the issue of fatality reviews and the logging of information regarding the victims children. If the person who started this discussion on fatality reviews is still on (sorry I can't see your name from this page), please email me at I would like to discuss this topic in more detail.
3.  Cora Peterson
 There is a new VERY comprehensive DV database being used recently through the Utah Medical Examiner's Office. These stats are being implemented and used by the committee on the Domestic Violence Fatality Review Center. I am not sure if their stats run to the effects on the children but the data they are collecting is very comprehensive - pages worth of codes for different issues and involvements by the victims and famiies. You can contact Teresa Brechlin at or 801-538-6888 for more info.
4.  Nancy Cline
 A good book to review is: When Father Kills Mother: Guiding Children Through Trauma and Grief -- Harris-Hendriks, Black, and Kaplan (Routledge)
5.  Alisha
 How can we find out more about that study?
6.  David Finkelhor
 I am not aware of specific studies, but they may exist.As with much regarding this topic, it is very hard to distinguish children exposed to severe domestic violence from other categories of trauma exposed children, including victims of physical abuse, emotional abuse, those exposed to community violence. Clearly they are all groups of children at very high risk of symptoms and life course difficulties as a result of such exposures.Although I am not trained as a clinician, it is my sense that the evidence based cognitive behavioral treatment for all these forms of exposures is quite similar.
7.  Betsy Groves
 The only study that I am aware of is a study of adults who experienced the homicide of one parent by the other as a child. This study is being conducted at the University of Virginia by a faculty member at the School of Nursing: Barbara Parker, RN, PhD. She has interviewed adults about their experiences as children: what they remember, their feelings and additudes about the perpetrator, what servicessupport the children got, and what suuports would have been helpful.
Are there states that have legislation mandating domestic violence prevention curriculums in schools? If so, how can I find out what model curriculums are used in elementary/middle/high schools? Any suggestions for how to partner with schools to have dv prevention/teen dating violence programs included in their curriculum?
1.  Cora Peterson
 We do have a Teen DV Program being offered to the Districts in SLC, Utah. It is a program created by Pat Merkley et al, as a subcommittee of the Utah Domestic Violence Council. Some Districts have been very open to this program, others are suggesting that they dont' have an issue with Teen DV (however, interestingly enough, the group of teens that were involved in the video segment are from that District and are reporting there is DV activity in their groups). To Contact Pat Merkley: Call the YWCA 801-355-2804 or you can try her at
2.  Betsy Groves
 I am not aware of any state that mandates domestic violence prevention curricula in schools. There are states and school systems that use dating violence curricula. Several systems in Massachusetts use such a curriculum. I will post information about this at a later date. I think the best strategy for partnering with schools is to reach out first to student health centers, school nurses or counselors and assess their interest and to get information from thme before approaching the school leadership. If you can find support within the system, your job is easier.
What are the best treatment modalities to use for children ages 6-10 and 11-14 years who have been exposed to domestic violence? We have found that it is often difficult to retain children in group treatment for more than 6 sessions because their parents are often not cooperative/supportive.However, retention/engagement in treatment is easier if provided in domestic violence shelters.Is there an average length of group treatment recommended? What are reasonable outcomes for providing services to this age children if their parents are not also receiving services? What instruments would you suggest to measure intervention/treatment outcomes?
1.  David Finkelhor
 I highly recommend this web site:http:www.sandragb.comSandra Graham Bermann has a lot of knowledge about these issues.
How do you feel about children being interviewed at Child Advocacy Centers to gather info. on what a child has been exposed to? Any specific points that you would include in this process?
1.  David Finkelhor
 I feel generally positive about Children's Advocacy Centers. Our program was involved in a recent national multisite evaluation, which found a number of positive benefits to CAC involvement, including better case coordination, better medical care and possibly more referral to mental health resources. Here is a web site for more information:http:www.unh.educcrcCAC_PressRelease.htmI would regard it as a positive development if CAC's could expand their current model beyond victims of sexual abuse -- which is the main focus of many programs, but not all -- to other child victims. Nonetheless one of the biggest challenges for the system is to fully involve prosecutors and courts to become more aware of and sensitive to the needs of children, particularly for expeditious handling of cases in which they may have some involvement.
Are there any protocols available that provide for a coordinated response on behalf of children who witness the homicide of one or both of their parents?
1.  Safe Start Ctr
 Unfortunately every system addresses the issue differently, so we are unable to provide protocols for a coordinated response. Below are resources that discuss systems responses: (1) The National Center for Children Exposed to Violence, Child Development - Community Policing Program, http:www.nccev.orginitiativescdcpindex.html,(2) Protecting and Supporting Children in the Child Welfare System and the Juvenile Court,Ryan, B., Bashant, C., and D. Brooks, 2006,Juvenile and Family Court Journal, Vol. 57, No.1 (issue on Child Trauma),http:www.ncjfcj.orgcontentview746433, and (3) Interventions for Children Exposed to Violence,Lieberman, A. and R. DeMartino (Eds.), 2006, http: This information has been provided to you by the Safe Start Center at
Has there been a study done that addresses how many people that as children came out of abuse/neglect and violent homes, in turn have a history in the community of domestic violence against their children?
1.  David Finkelhor
 There have been many studies that show considerably higher rates of abuse and neglect in the background of those who commit abuse against their children. The rates vary considerably from 30-70. But it is important not to infer from this that someone with a history of abuse and neglect is at high risk to be an abuser. Most do not go on to commit abuse. One of the things that we do not yet now is whether the greater awareness about child maltreatment and the greater availability of resources to treat abused children in recent years may have reduced the likelihood of intergenerational transmission for more recent generations of children. This would mean that the statistics based on older generations overstates the connection.
do you have any recent stats related to how often the abuser gains full custody of the children in cases where the victim has left the abuser?
What if you have a child in a domestic violence shelter that has a make believe friend and it is also telling her to do bad and unsafe things. When we talked to the mother about it she said that is just her daughters way of getting attention. Should we look into it more or just agree with the mother. The make believe friend has a mother that tells the little girl that if staff interfers one more time that she will kill them. Is this also normal for children that have been around Domestic Violence?
1.  Ashleigh
 What you are describing is not a normal response to witnessing violence. It sounds like the child needs to be evaluated by a psychiatric hospital since the imaginary friend is telling her to do unsafe things. Often mothers are so overwhelmed by what they are going through that it is difficult to even fathom how to deal with their children's problems. Yes, the child may be trying to get attention, but any child who goes to these lengths to get attention, needs someone to attend to them to address their safety and that of those around the child.
What are some most effective treatment modalities for adolescents exposed to domestic violence? Is there a difference between what is effective with males and females?
1.  Safe Start Ctr
 There are several different intervention strategies for adolescents, including violence reduction; increased social or coping skills; arts-based experiences; cognitive-behavioral change; trauma reduction; etc. You can search for effective programs on the following Web sites:(1) National Child Traumatic Stress Network,, (2) Promising Practices Network,, and (3) Children Exposed to Violence Database, National Center for Children Exposed to Violence, You can find information about interventions and gender issues in Interventions for Children Exposed to Violence, Lieberman, A. and R. DeMartino (Eds.), 2006, http: - This information has been provided to you by the Safe Start Center at
I am a graduate student earning my Master's in Criminal Justice and Forensic Psychology. In my Advanced Victimology class, I am doing a literature review and analysis on the effect of witnessing violence, both domestic and other violent crimes, on children. I have a couple questions that I will ask throughout this forum... 1. Is a certain age of a child more/less likely to exhibit the after-effects of witnessing violence (e.g. PTSD, future violence themselves, etc.)? In other words, if a child witnesses violence at a young age vs. an older age (4 v. 10, for example), are they more likely to be able to move past it, or does age not impact the effects the exposure to violence has?
How can schools best be involved in helping children who witness violence?
1.  Betsy Groves
 Schools play a very important role for children who are affected by domestic violence. First, teachers offer stable trusting relationships and a classroom environment that is safe and predictable. Many children will talk with teachers about their home situation, because they trust them. Thus, teachers may be in a position to get help for the child and family. Teachers, therefore, need training and support in knowing how to help families access services. Second, schools can provide infromation to parents and children about domestic violence and about what healthy family relationships are. There are various conflict resolution or violence prevention programs that offer children information and alternatvies to interpersonal violence.Finally, i would strongly recommend a publication called Helping Traumatized Children Learn: Supportive School Environments for children traumatized by family violence This is published by the Massachuestts advocates for Children.
Do you have information (or sources to) regarding children who are victims of domestic violence (beatings) who have never addressed the residual effects with professional guidance, and then go on to have self-esteem problems and subsequent substance abuse issues which ultimately propel them into the criminal justice system as young adults? ALSO - can you steer me toward information about the effect long term incarceration has on such individuals and their probabilities of successful reintegration?
How do you help a parent and their children who are so used to violent environments and who do not see the importance of alternative non-violent coping skills to survive?
1.  Safe Start Ctr
 The following curricula address this issue:(1) Safe Futures: Supporting Children and Families Affected by Domestic Violence, (2) Safe Havens Training Curriculum for Teachers and Child Care Providers, and(3) Second Step: A Violence Prevention - This information has been provided to you by the Safe Start Center at
Is there anything specific that we should be doing for children who enter into our domestic violence shelter with their mothers? We have a child specialist who works with them, discussing issues such as feelings and healthy ways to express anger, safety planning, self-esteem, explaining what domestic violence is, and various other topics. We also stress to the children that they are neither responsible for causing the violence nor for stopping it. Beyond this, what can we be doing for them? We will be offering DV support groups for children soon as well.
1.  Safe Start Ctr
 You will find a list of training curricula in an earlier response. We also recommend the following publications:(1) Working with Young Children and Their Families: Recommendations for Domestic Violence Agencies and Batterer Intervention Programs, Gewirtz, A. and R. Menakem, http:www.uiowa.edusocialwkpaper_5.pdf,(2) Domestic Violence and Family Support Programs: Creating Opportunities to Help Young Children and Their Families, Ahsan, N.,http:www.uiowa.edusocialwkpublications.html, and (3) Reducing Conduct Problems Among Children Brought to Womens Shelters: Intervention Effects 24 Months Following Termination of Services, McDonald, R., Jouriles, E., and N. Skopp,, select Speakers Bureau; or contact This information has been provided to you by the Safe Start Center.
Any advice or resources to help families in which the children have become violent to the parents in the home?
How does witnessing DV affect teenagers in particular?
1.  Safe Start Ctr
 Children are affected by witnessing violence according to the nature of the exposure and their developmental level. You can find a list of symptoms on the following Web sites:(1) National Center for Children Exposed to Violence,, and (2) Child Witness to Violence Project, A more detailed discussion is provided in What About Me: Seeking to Understand a Childs View of Violence in the Family A. Cunningham and L. Baker, 2004 http:www.lfcc.on.cawhat_about_me.pdf.- This information has been provided to you by the Safe Start Center at
What validated assessment measures are currently recommended for use with children exposed to DV and what research currently addresses DV and impact on attachment in children?
Can you point me to some good references for activities/materials for working with adolescent boys who have been exposed to domestic violence in their home?
1.  Safe Start Ctr
 You might check the following for information or materials:(1) Search Institute for asset-building activities for youth,, (2) California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare,http:www.cachildwelfareclearinghouse.orgsearchmaltreatment-type,(3) National Center for Children Exposed to Violence (Resource Center),,(4) Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Model Programs Guide,http:www.dsgonline.commpg2.5mpg_index.htm, (5) Promising Practices Network, http:www.promisingpractices.orgprograms_topic_list.asp?topicid3. - This information has been provided to you by the Safe Start Center at
Our Domestic Violence Center is opening a pre-school and afterschool program for our clients' children. The difficulty when working with very young children is how can we address memories and expressions of anger surrounding the trauma of what they have experienced when their verbal abilities are so limited. What techniques and materials would you suggest?
1.  Betsy Groves
 Play, drawings, stories, dress-up, puppets... all the activities that early childhood professionals know very well.(And I hope you are able to staff your center with an early childhood person). Play is language of young children and providing them with a good play space is therefore, very important.
2.  kristina
 call Rhonda Arrick at Legacy House in Indianapolis, IN
I'm an employee at The Women Safe House, and we wanted to know how can we acess some literture on the topic of Children Exposed to Domestic Voilence.
1.  Betsy Groves
 Go to http:www.mincava.umn.eduor go to our website: childwitnesstoviolence.orgOther possible sites are and NCTSN.orgGood luck!
Our PTA councils are going to do a public forum on the impact of DV on children. We are looking to limit it to 3 or 4 participants on stage. Social workers, guidance councilors & someone from the Attorney Generals Office are some we have thought about inviting. Who else or who would you suggest for the topic? It would be open to the public.
1.  Linda
 battered women, adult child who witnessed DV as a child, or advocates from your local battered womens shelter
When we complete intakes for group or individual counseling we usually interview both the non abusive parent and the child. The non abusive parent is asked to discuss the Domestic violence with the cousnelor first, in presence of the child, to show the child that it is ok to discuss. Do you have any suggestions that may improve this process as it is often difficult for victims? Also, should the child be interviewed first?
What is the correlation between children victims of domestic violence and juvenile delinquency? What's the probability of a child who witnesses violence in the home early in life acting out at a later age?
1.  Jan
 Read Dr. Tony Cavanaugh Johnson's findings that children in DV households have been acting out as sexual predators. While this may seem unrelated, it is a very logical connection. Children are living in a very sexualized society (sex is the answer, tool and means for everything) and when they live in uncontrollable situations (DV), they seek ways that they can be the one in control (sexual aggression). Sexual aggression is just their weapon-of-choice, NOT a deviance in their personality.
What is the best way to work with the "non-offending" parent that denies that their child is effected by the abuse that he/she has witnessed?
We have several cases in our county where there has been documented abuse by the father, but yet he still manages to gain custody of the children. Do you see this as a trend? How do we explain this to the women who are losing custody? Are there suggestions as to how to address this problem?
1.  Safe Start Ctr
 Resources on this topic include:(1) The Batterer as Parent: Addressing the Impact of Domestic Violence on Family Dynamics,Bancroft, L. and J. Silverman, 2002,http:www.sagepub.combooksProdDesc.nav?prodIdBook17542, (2) Children Exposed to Domestic Violence: Making Trauma-Informed Custody and Visitation Decisions in Juvenile and Family Court Journal, Vol. 57, No. 1,Van Horn, P. and B. Groves, 2006,http:www.ncjfcj.orgcontentblogcategory364433,(3) What Therapists See that Judges May Miss: A Unique Guide to Custody Decisions When Spouse Abuse is Charged,Crites, L. and D. Coker, Spring 1988,http:www.vawnet.orgDomesticViolenceResearchVAWnetDocsAR_custody.php.- This information has been provided to you by the Safe Start Center at
2.  Betsy Groves
 We do see this happening, but there has been a great deal of work done over the last ten years, in court systems accross the country to change this practice. Many states now have some form of presumptive custody laws or guidelines that make it much more difficult for an abusive parent to gain custody. To find out more about these laws and the trends by state, go to the website of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges: and look at their domestic violence section. I think that the most effective way to change this practice is work at the level of changing policy and law. This is not easy, and it is a longer-term challenge. Again, I would refer you to the staff of the domestic violence section of the NCJFCJ for more information and technical assistance in this area.
3.  Myrtle L. Powe
 Encourage the mother to step out of the emotional role to the advocate role for the child. Examine their lifestyle and compare it to the father. Then seek counseling to externally examine the family to ascertain whether the dynamics of the family can withstand the stress. If not, receive, family counseling to approach the parent shown to have the best interest of the child. No one wins when the family dynamics,regardless the components,is disintegrated.
I am looking for suggestions on developing an effective public awaerness campaign to target child witnesses of domestic violence in an urban setting.
1.  Safe Start Ctr
 Public awareness resources include:(1) The Family Violence Prevention Fund,http:endabuse.orgprogramspubliceducation, (2) The Ad Council,, (3) The Rochester Ad Council,, and (4) Pinellas Safe Start,http:www.pinellassafestart.orgen. - This information has been provided to you by the Safe Start Center at
2.  Kristen Kracke
 The Office of Juvenile Justice and Deliquency Prevention's (OJJDP) national Safe Start initiative on children exposed to violence worked with 9 communities across the country who developed public awareness campaigns along with their intervention and prevention work. Two of the sites' campaigns won national awards for their work: Pinellas County, Florida and Rochester, NY. Nationally, OJJDP recently modified the Rochester Ad Council's poster for national dissemination for DV Awareness month. A thumbnail of the downloadable poster image can be found on
3.  Vaughn Tooley
 Thank you for your input. We will check out the website for further ideas.
4.  Myrtle L. Powe
 A public service announcement on the children's network as well as on the back of cereal boxes could be a viable avenue. In addition, MySpace, has been shown to be a good source for the child privately, yet anxiously seeking solutions.
5.  K Shrimplin
 Collaborative I work with does a public awareness campaign and one of the campaign foci is children exposed to domestic violence. View for examples of our radio and print ad campaign--we have different versions for different target audiences (all versions are not on the website).
What is the statue of limitations on childhood sexual abuse? I have been working with a woman who was repeatedly molested beginning at age 6 (now 26). She had never revealed this info before coming into out shelter.
1.  Linda
 it varies from state to state and whether it is a criminal or civil statue of limitations. Many states have a clause that has an extended or no statute of limitations for crimes andor harm against children. Some statutes of limitations address the ability to file against the abuser for damages and may be phrased ... when the adult realizes the extent of their injury...they have so long to file a civil complaint. So, check with your particular Sate statutes for both civil and criminal statutes of limitations.
Can you suggest any material that addresses boundry issues while working with children?
In our county we are designing a protocol between law enforcement agencies who respond to the home during dv incidents and child protective services immediate response. Any models you would recommend? What do you think our committee should guard against in designing this protocol?
1.  Safe Start Ctr
 You might access the following resources:(1) Community Policing Program Domestic Violence Intervention Project,National Center for Children Exposed to Violence,http:www.nccev.orginitiativesdvi.html,,(2) Domestic Violence Assessment: Current Practices and New Models for Improved Child Welfare Interventions,Petrucci, C. and L. Mills, 2002,http:brief-treatment.oxfordjournals.orgcgireprint22153,(3) Effective Intervention In Domestic Violence & Child Maltreatment Cases: Guidelines for Policy and Practice,National Council of Juvenile & Family Court Judges,http:www.ncjfcj.orgimagesstoriesdeptfvdpdfgreenbook.pdf.- This information has been provided to you by the Safe Start Center at
Are you aware of any mandatory reporting laws that require an investigation if a child reports, say to a teacher, that they have seen one parent physically abuse the other?
1.  Safe Start Ctr
 Mandatory reporting laws are different in each state. You can conduct a state statute search on the Web site of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges at a summary of state laws, visit The Child Welfare Information Gateway at http:www.childwelfare.govsystemwidelaws_policiesstatutesdomviolall.pdf.- This information has been provided to you by the Safe Start Center at
Do you have recommendations or suggestions for custody mediators who are being asked by judges to mediate a parenting agreement when there is known domestic violence?
Many women are being punished by the court system for bringing up the domestic violence, especially during divorce and child custody hearings. Any suggestons for handling these situations?
1.  Safe Start Ctr
 The National Council for Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) has a new publication, Childrens Exposure to Domestic Violence: A Guide to Research and Resources, which is scheduled for release on November 30, 2006. The publication is designed for court personnel and community practitioners. It will be available for download at You can also contact the Resource Center on Domestic Violence: Child Protection and Custody under the National Council of Juvenile and Family Judges (NCJFCJ) at (800) 527-3223 or This information has been provided to you by the Safe Start Center at
What is the best domestic violence ciriculum for working with children in a shelter, between the ages of 4 and 12?
1.  Safe Start Ctr
 There is no best curriculum. Recommended curricula and interventions include:(1) Hope & Healing: A Caregiver's Guide to Helping Young Children Affected by Trauma, Zero to Three,, (2) Scenes from a Shelter: Talking About Domestic Violence,Family Communications, Inc.,, and(3) Second Step: A Violence Prevention Curriculum,Committee for Children, information about an arts-based curriculum and a program to reduce conduct problems among preschool and school-age children, contact the Safe Start Center at or (800) 865-0965.- This information has been provided to you by the Safe Start Center.
What are your (Finkelhor and Groves)opinions about the efficacy of The Battered Mother's Testimony Project (in Massachusetts)?
I have been working with children to educate them on "good touch" "bad touch." What is the youngest age this kind of material should be introduced to a child?
1.  Jan
 I don't think the 'Good Touch' 'Bad Touch' explanation is the best - especially for young children. When a child has a broken limb or has to receive a shot - those are 'bad touches' to a child because of the pain associated but they must endure the circumstance. I have found that explaining 'Secret touches' have made more of an impact. Anybody who touches your private parts and tells you to keep it a secret is not a good person. Nobody should ever touch you and tell you to keep it a secret. The doctor will always tell MommyDaddy the kinds of touches heshe needs to do - so if anybody ever tells you to keep a touch a secret - you MUST tell me!!This explanation seems to resonate more with - especially the young child.
From a child welfare perspective, one of the most complicated situations that we approach has to do with parents who are violent with each other. The dynamics of violence are not always as simple as we would like to think. Any thoughts on this?
How often are children who witness a parent being abused also,in turn, abused themselves? Is a cycle or progression of violence common wherein the abuser batters the spouse and moves on to the children?
1.  StephanieMayer
 I'm not sure if this is the answer you're looking for, but...50 percent of batterers also physically abuse their children. They are 7 times more likely than a non-batterer to do so, and the likelihood increases as the severity of abuse against the partner increases.
I'm interested in more indepth training on the impact of domestic violence on children -- can you offer any suggestions for training or conferences?
1.  C Thomas-Wold
 Contact the California Attorney General's Safe From the Start web site at to find out how to bring Dr. Bruce Perry or Dr. Linda Chamberlain to your community. Dr. Perry and Dr. Chamberlain are both foremost experts on childhood exposure to violence and are available for full or part-day trainings. They've presented at several California and international conferences that I've attended and can present to a wide array of audiences (law enforcement, parents, policy makers, advocates, physicians, etc.).
2.  Safe Start Ctr
 We suggest the following organizations and materials:(1) NCTSN Master Speaker Series Teleconferences,National Child Traumatic Stress Network,, (2) Schedule of conferences, Minnesota Center Against Violence and Abuse,, (3) Schedule of conferences & tools for professionals, National Center for Children Exposed to Violence,,(4) Safe Futures: Supporting Children and Families Affected by Domestic Violence, Family Communications, Inc.,, (5) Safe Havens Training Curriculum for Teachers and Child Care Providers,, (6) Center for Training Services, Zero to Three, This information has been provided to you by the Safe Start Center at
3.  Betsy Groves
 Our program (the Child Witness to Violence Project at Boston Medical Center) offers 2 and 3 day seminars twice a year on clinical intervention with children affected by domestic violence. A portion of this training also addresses the impact on children of domestic violence. For information, go to our website:
4.  David Finkelhor
 Check out some of the training opportunities listed here. There's one coming up in Denver in about a
Are children of a certain age more or less likely to exhibit the common symptoms of exposure to violence? For example, if a child witnesses domestic violence at 4 as opposed to 10, are they more likely to be able to move on than if exposed later in their childhood (providing they were able to escape the situation)?
The Child Abuse Protocol in our community calls for police to send all reports of domestic violence related crimes to social services where children are present and witness the offense, or are listed as residing in the home, whether or not they are present. Do you know of any effective interention strategies for social workers when the crime does not rise to the level that child abuse charges are filed?
1.  C Thomas-Wold
 The California Attorney General's Office offers a training curriculim titled: Safe From the Start, Reducing Children's Exposure To Violence. Their informational CD can be ordered at no charge at The CD includes information on multidisciplinary approaches to children's exposure to violence, informaton on the neurobiology of children's exposure, and practical advise for practioners in working with families. My office, the Office of Family Violence Prevention, developed a training presenttion based on this inforamtion and we provide the information to parents one-on-one, on the dangers of children's exposure. We find that parents are more willing to accept services once they know how violence affects thier children.
2.  Safe Start Ctr
 You may wish to access the following resources: (1) Early Childhood, Domestic Violence, and Poverty,S. Schechter (Ed.),http:www.uiowa.edusocialwkpublications.html,(2) Safe Havens Training Curriculum, Family Communications, Inc.,,(3) Scenes from a Shelter: Talking About Domestic Violence,Family Communications, Inc.,,(4) Shelter from the Storm. Clinical Intervention with Children,Child Witness to Violence Project,,(5) Center for Training Services,Zero to Three, - This information has been provided to you by the Safe Start Center at
3.  Myrtle L. Powe
 Consider a domestic violence training to impower your department with available personnel who are equipped to address the situation. This would prevent the escalation .
There seems to be an increase in teenage females who are offending sexually against younger males. Is there any correlation between witnessing DV and this phenomenon? If so, is it a backlash of some sort against the male batterers in their families, or perhaps a result of their own molestation by males in childhood? (or both?)
1.  David Finkelhor
 As I indicated in an earlier posting, there can be a connection for boys, and perhaps also for girls. However, I don't believe it has been established that there has been a true increase in female offending, and what may be observed is a case of better identification. The origins of sexual offending are complicated and no one dynamic explains why a teenage female would offend. Look at the work of Matthews for more on this issue.
This question is for Betsy McAlister-Groves. I am a part of the ACYS Grant in Oklahoma; I am wondering if at your agency if you have any indexs you use that helps to determine how much violence children/adolecsents have been exposed to?
1.  Betsy Groves
 We use the Traumatic Events Screening Inventory (TESI) developed by Julian Ford at the U. of Connecticut. Go to and i think you can find more choices of assessments to use there.
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