court certified batterer intervention and anger management ​programs for Santa Barbara County 


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Children who experience or witnessing abusive situations are forced to process complex emotions, often without access to the resources they need to do so.


  • Many children exposed to violence in the home are also victims of physical abuse (including harsh corporal punishment).
  • Children who witness domestic violence or are victims of abuse themselves are at serious risk for long-term physical and mental health problems.
  • Children who witness violence between parents may also be at greater risk of being violent in their future relationships.
  • If you are a parent who is experiencing abuse, it can be difficult to know how to protect your child.

There is substantial medical research that establishes the enormous risk to children of exposing them to traumatic events such a:

  • witnessing , hearing or sensing domestic violence
  • direct physical abuse
  • sexual abuse.  

The research demonstrates that these children have significant, increased risk of illnesses and injuries as children and need more medical care. Significantly, these medical problems do not end when children reach their majority but continue for the rest of their lives.This is why court systems may remove children from violent households and does not tolerate practices that result in children losing precious years from their lives. They act in the best interests of children because some parents do it themselves until they learn how to not be violent with each other... 

Short-term effects of domestic violence and/or abuse on children

Children in homes where one parent is abused may feel fearful and anxious. They may always be on guard, wondering when the next violent event will happen. This can cause them to react in different ways, depending on their age:

Children in preschool. 
Young children who witness intimate partner violence may start doing things they used to do when they were younger, such as bed-wetting, thumb-sucking, increased crying, and whining. They may also develop difficulty falling or staying asleep; show signs of terror, such as stuttering or hiding; and show signs of severe separation anxiety.

School-aged children. 
Children in this age range may feel guilty about the abuse and blame themselves for it. Domestic violence and abuse hurts children’s self-esteem. They may not participate in school activities or get good grades, have fewer friends than others, and get into trouble more often. They also may have a lot of headaches and stomachaches.

Teens who witness abuse may act out in negative ways, such as fighting with family members or skipping school. They may also engage in risky behaviors, such as having unprotected sex and using alcohol or drugs. They may have low self-esteem and have trouble making friends. They may start fights or bully others and are more likely to get in trouble with the law. This type of behavior is more common in teen boys who are abused in childhood than in teen girls. Girls are more likely than boys to be withdrawn and to experience depression.

Long-Term effects of domestic violence and/or abuse on children

The long-term harm of exposure to domestic violence or direct physical or sexual abuse can and does develop in a myriad of ways. A child could develop immediate and obvious symptoms or the harm can go unnoticed for many years.

Nowadays, all medical doctors often ask their patients if they experienced childhood trauma because so many different mental and physical conditions can be rooted from early childhood trauma. This is especially problematic because patients are rarely thinking about events from decades earlier as the cause of their current health problems.

There are many ways in which childhood trauma can seriously impact children's health now and in the future. 
​Exposure to domestic violence often:

  • interferes with children’s ability to enjoy the quality and quantity of sleep needed.
  • can lead to obesity in adolescence and with increased risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other medical problems in adult years.
  • increases the risk of depression and anxiety. Depression can discourage proper self-care, negatively impact the immune system and other bodily defenses and is a major factor in suicide
  • often leads to eating disorders in adolescence and later years.
  • may lead to substance abuse in adolescence and with long term addiction issues in adulthood.
  • increases the risk of teens risky sexual behavior which can lead to sexually transmitted diseases including HIV and cause survivors to interact with dangerous individuals. It can also encourage the use of dangerous drugs.

    For children to witness their father or another man abusing their mother, they would tend to be fearful and angry, but often it is unsafe for them to express their anger particularly to the abuser. This can cause them to express their anger in other ways that can undermine their health and safety. This can result in both physical and mental illnesses or cause them to get into fights where someone else hurts them. 

    Children who witness domestic violence often miss needed sleep both because of frightening incidents at night and the fear which makes it hard to sleep at other times. This makes it difficult for children to get their work done in school. They may also act out because of their anger.

At least half of the homeless population consists of mothers and children who left abusers. Many children also leave home because of domestic violence, physical or sexual abuse. Victims with limited financial resources often can’t afford safe housing, healthy food and needed medical care. All of this contributes to medical problems facing children impacted by domestic violence.

Many victims of childhood trauma suffer from unexplained or inadequately explained conditions. Many are labeled as hypochondriacs which may say more about the failure of the medical community to find the cause than the complaints of the victims. These experiences are painful in many ways both physically and emotionally and can prove debilitating. Living with pain undermines other parts of a person’s life and interferes with their ability to reach their potential.

How can I help my children recover after witnessing or experiencing domestic violence?

You can help your children by:

  • Helping them feel safe. Children who witness or experience DV need to feel safe. Consider whether leaving the abusive relationship might help your child feel safer. Talk to your child about the importance of healthy relationships.

  • Talking to them about their fears. Let them know that it’s not their fault or your fault. Learn more about how to listen and talk to your child about DV

  • Talking to them about healthy relationships. Help them learn from the abusive experience by talking about what healthy relationships are and are not. This will help them know what is healthy when they start romantic relationships of their own.

  • Talking to them about boundaries. Let your child know that no one has the right to touch them or make them feel uncomfortable, including family members, teachers, coaches, or other authority figures. Also, explain to your child that he or she doesn’t have the right to touch another person’s body, and if someone tells them to stop, they should do so right away.

  • Helping them find a reliable support system. In addition to a parent, this can be a school counselor, a therapist, or another trusted adult who can provide ongoing support. Know that school counselors are required to report domestic violence or abuse if they suspect it.

  • Getting them professional help. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of talk therapy or counseling that may work best for children who have experienced violence or abuse.

Your doctor can recommend a mental health professional who works with children who have been exposed to violence or abuse. Many shelters and domestic violence organizations also have support groups for kids.
These groups can help children by letting them know they are not alone and helping them process their experiences in a nonjudgmental place