Acts of domestic violence can leave a lasting impact on children in a number of devastating ways, either as victims or witnesses of abuse.
A growing body of literature suggests children exposed to domestic violence are more likely than their peers to grapple with a host of long-term difficulties, ranging from behavioral and social issues to emotional and cognitive problems, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Guided by the best interests of the child, many domestic violence laws have provisions in place to protect children. For example:
- Increased criminal penalties. In many states, a conviction for domestic violence that was committed in the presence of a child may result in harsher penalties such as longer jail terms and/or increased fines. In five states, committing an act of domestic violence in front of a child is a separate crime that may be charged separately or in addition to the act of violence, according to the Child Welfare Information Gateway.
- Counseling. Some states -- including Connecticut, Illinois, Louisiana and Nevada -- require perpetrators to pay for any counseling that a child victim may need. Other states, such as Ohio and Oklahoma, require the offenders to undergo counseling.
- Supervised visitation. In addition to losing custody, a supervised visitation requirement may be imposed on parents who are convicted of perpetrating acts of domestic violence in front of children. In Indiana, for example, parents may be supervised during parenting time for at least one year and not more than two years following the act of domestic violence. Courts may also require an offender to complete a batterer's intervention program before unsupervised parenting time may be granted.
Decision-making regarding the types of services and interventions needed for children living with violence will depend on the child's experiences and trauma symptoms, as well as the protective factors present.
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