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The Impact of Domestic Violence on Children

Did you know that being witness to Domestic Violence (DV) as a child can alter your DNA? Or that if a pregnant woman experiences DV during her pregnancy, her unborn child is more likely to develop anxiety or depression? A study conducted in 2014 out of New Orleans showed that being exposed to violence in their home resulted in children having shortened chromosome tips (telomeres). The degradation of these telomeres results in cellular aging, and for children in homes where DV is occurring, it can cost them as much as 7 to 10 years. This damage to the child’s DNA also means they are at increased risk for several mental and physical issues, including diabetes, heart disease, mental illness, and obesity.

On September 13, 2017, there were a total of 25,022 children receiving DV-related services, including 12,926 children that were in emergency shelter.

Every year, for the past 13 years, the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) has completed a census to determine, on one given day, how many individuals are seeking and receiving services in relation to DV, with the intent of raising awareness for the issue. NNEDV’s 12th Annual Census Report documented that on September 13, 2017, there were a total of 25,022 children receiving DV-related services, including 12,926 children that were in emergency shelter across the United States (US). That was just on that one day! What if 12,000 was the average figure for this circumstance? That means that over 4 million children may have had to enter emergency shelter, with their abused parent, in 2017.

Over 15 million (1 in 15) children in the US live in homes where DV has occurred at least 1 time within the past 12 months; 90% of those children are witness to this violence. So what exactly does “witness” mean in all of this? It doesn’t just mean being in the room as an altercation takes place. The child may not even be in the home when the actual incident occurs, but can feel the tension building up before, and see the aftermath.

The child can be in the backyard and hear yelling and verbal abuses.
The child can be in their room and hear someone being hit.
The child can be sitting in the kitchen immediately after the fight is over and see broken dishes on the floor.
The child can be getting ready to go to school the day after and see bruises on the abused parent.

The stress and tension from the cycle of DV has a lasting impact on these 15 million+ children. Symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), such as nightmares, flashbacks, and hyper-vigilance, have been found in 100% of children in DV homes. They are more likely to attempt suicide, be sexually abused, abuse drugs and alcohol, and participate in criminal activity. These children are also 3 times as likely to be victims and/or perpetrators of DV, as opposed to their peers. Unless taught otherwise, children in DV homes will continue the cycle of domestic violence.

With help, the cycle of violence may be stopped, and the child can move forward to have a healthy future. As a parent, professional, friend, or family member, if you have any questions on how this may be achieved, do not hesitate to give the Staff at the Arkansas Valley Resource Center a call. AVRC Staff is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year!

415 Colorado Avenue, La Junta, CO 81050
24 Hour Hotline: (719) 384-7764
TTY: (719) 384-1938
After Hours Colorado Relay dial 711 or 1-800-659-2656


AVRC is non-discriminatory agency regarding race, religion, color, gender, country of national origin, sexual orientation, mental health status, substance use or economic condition.


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