Is Domestic Violence Child Abuse?

What is your responsibility towards your children if your spouse is abusing you?

Couple arguing, girl in covering ears with hand
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What is your responsibility towards your children if your spouse is abusing you? If you are being abused, your children are being abused too. Children who are living in a home where one parent is abusing the other are victims of child abuse even if they aren't physically being hurt.

You have both a moral and legal responsibility to protect your children.

Your Responsibility -- Mandatory Reporting

It is your responsibility as a parent, both morally and legally, to protect your children from the long-term effects of domestic violence.

In some locales, child protective investigators consider domestic violence as child maltreatment. Allegations of failure to protect on the victim's part may be considered if he/she is not protecting their children by getting out.

In accordance with the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), all states in the United States have laws and penalties for parental non-reporting of child abuse. You could face a fine, jail time, or loss of your children.

"As the parent, you are responsible for what happens to your child, even if you aren't the one who actually did the yelling, hitting, or hurting."
Source: Family Problems, DCF, and the Law: A Guide for Parents , page 5 of brochure, page 7 of pdf file.

"The law does not allow parents to put their child in danger, or to hurt their child."
Source: Family Problems, DCF, and the Law: A Guide for Parents, page 24 of brochure, page 26 of pdf file.

If you are a victim of spousal abuse, you need to realize that you are also in legal jeopardy. Get help. This is not a simple issue. Please don't try to walk this journey alone.

Call the domestic violence hotline: 1-888-774-2900

Psychological Damage by Witnessing Violence in the Home

More and more studies are showing that children are psychologically damaged when they witness violence in their home.

If you are living with an abusive spouse, your children, regardless of their age, will feel emotionally deprived. These children are also at a high risk for eventually being physically abused.

Not Easy to Leave an Abusive Marriage Situation

Leaving an abusive marriage is not easy. It's a difficult decision that should be made with a counselor and/or legal advice to insure the safety of both you and your children.

There are many resources now available that are designed to protect victims of domestic violence from losing their jobs, providing temporary shelter, free counseling, and financial aid. We realize that these programs don't lessen the fear of a woman who believes her husband will carry out a threat to kill her or her children if she leaves.

Conviction of domestic violence abusers generally results in probation, a fine, non-jail or short jail sentences. However, we still believe that victims need to get help and to get themselves and their children out of the abusive situation.

Trying to Figure it Out -- Journal of a Woman Trying to Leave an Abusive Marriage

Domestic Violence: Why women Stay

Effects of Living in an Abusive Home on Children

  • Poor health, frequent illness.
  • Poor sleeping habits.
  • Excessive screaming (infants).
  • Increased aggression with peers such as hitting, biting, being argumentative, fighting.
  • Low self-esteem, blaming self.
  • Severe shyness or clinging, social isolation from peers.
  • Withdrawn or passive personality.
  • Feelings of anxiety, sadness, depression.
  • Angry, hostile behavior.
  • Difficulties at school, not wanting to go to classes, poor grades, difficulty in concentration.
  • Rebellion against authority.

What You Can Do

  • If you are in an abusive marriage or relationship, seek help and support immediately.
  • Consider leaving and separating from your spouse.
  • Even if your abusive partner receives treatment and is able to show ability to control anger and aggression, don't rush back into the marriage.
  • Work with the justice system to insure that perpetrators be held accountable and that they not be allowed to continue to abuse.
  • Help children learn how to adjust to new situations.
  • Let children know they have a support group of peers, authority figures and relatives.
  • Emphasize that children are not responsible for the violence in their home.
  • Increase the understanding of students of the effects of domestic and dating violence.
  • Educate children that violence and abusive behavior is unacceptable.
  • Make young people aware of the indicators of violence so they can avoid these relationships.
  • Encourage the understanding of the need for non-violent, safe and equitable relationships.
  • Publicize resources that are available to help educate and support domestic abuse victims.

Future Consequences of Continued Violence

Children who have exposure to continued violence often display delinquent behavior when they reach adolescence. Additionally, when these children reach adulthood, they are at a higher risk for being an abusive husband, an abused wife or an abusive parent.

Controversial Issue

This issue is controversial. We do think it is imperative that the justice system holds perpetrators of abuse accountable for their actions. To just zero in on the victims and hold them responsible for the damaging impact on their children is heaping further abuse on the victims and that isn't fair or just.