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Future Plan

Program Challenges

Lessons Learned


CHAPTER 10 - SUMMARY Summary of Major Components of Each Case Study Site

The Immediate Response

Follow-up to Ensure Police Officers Make Appropriate Referrals

Involvement of Schools

Provision of Services



Recommendation 2

Recommendation 3

Recommendation 4

xvi Recommendation 5




–  –  –

Table 1 Policy Regarding Children Exposed to Domestic Violence

Table 2 Nature of the Response

Table 3 Funding Sources and Model Approach

–  –  –

OVERVIEW Children are all too frequently exposed to domestic violence. In the mental health community, it has been well documented that children exposed to domestic violence, particularly children who witness violence inflicted by one parent on the other parent, suffer many forms of trauma. Early intervention can be a powerful tool in helping these vulnerable children put their lives back together and breaking the cycle of violence. Traditional policing practices are generally focused upon apprehending and gathering evidence on perpetrators and have overlooked the service needs of these children. In contrast, the philosophy of community oriented policing is consistent with looking beyond investigation and arrest and including law enforcement in serving the needs of citizens. In a number of community oriented policing departments around the country, law enforcement has partnered with community service providers to identify and help children exposed to domestic violence.


Domestic violence is a pervasive problem in our society. The 1998 National Crime Victimization Survey reported that victims identified intimates (current or former spouses, boyfriends, or girlfriends) as offenders in 956,200 (12%) of overall violent crimes (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1999). Unreported domestic violence incidents are estimated to be much higher than those reported to the police. On average each year from 1992 to 1996, about eight in 1,000 women and one in 1,000 men age 12 or older experienced a violent victimization inflicted by a current or former spouse, girlfriend, or boyfriend (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1998). It has been estimated that over four million American women experience a serious assault by an intimate partner during an average 12 month period (American Psychological Association, 1996).

Intimate murder in 1996 accounted for nine percent of all murders nationwide (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1998). For the period from 1976 to 1996, 29.7 percent of women were murdered by an intimate: 18.9 percent of women victims were murdered by husbands, 1.4 percent by ex-husbands, and 9.4 percent by nonmarital partners (with an undetermined victim-offender relationship in 27.7% of the cases) (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1998). During this same period, six percent of men were murdered by an intimate: 3.7 percent of male victims were killed by wives, 0.3 percent by exwives, and two percent by nonmarital partners (with an undetermined victim-offender relationship in 34.3% of the cases) (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1998).

More often than not children reside in homes where domestic violence occurs. One estimate suggests that children live in 80 percent of violent households (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1993). A little more than of half of the female victims of domestic violence live in a home with children under age 12. Also, 22 percent of the male victims of intimate violence live in a home with children (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1998). Experts estimate that somewhere between 3.3 and ten million children are exposed to domestic abuse each year (Straus, 1991; Carlson, 1984). According to Dobash and Dobash (1979), the children observed the violence in 75 percent of incidents between intimates. Pagelow (1982) found similar figures (76 percent of the incidents were observed by children). Walker (1984) found even higher numbers with children observing the incident in 84 percent of domestic violence incidents. In fact, Dobash and Dobash (1979) found that some fathers purposely arranged for their children to witness the violence.

It is not unusual, however, for children to feign sleep or hide during the incident. Although out of sight of the abuse, they can still hear it. Even children who do not directly witness or hear the abuse are often aware of and effected by it. As participants at a State Justice Institute-funded

national conference concluded, "children are not unaware of violence just because they don't see it:

toddlers are not too young to understand what is happening" (State Justice Institute, 1993).


Children who live in battering relationships experience the most insidious form of child abuse. Whether or not they are physically abused by either parent is less important than the psychological scars they bear from watching their fathers beat their mothers. They learn to become part of a dishonest conspiracy of silence. They learn to lie to prevent inappropriate behavior and they learn to suspend fulfillment of their needs rather than risk another confrontation. They expend a vast amount of energy avoiding problems. They learn to live in a world of make-believe (Lenore Walker as cited in Gwinn, 1995).

The above statement eloquently states the effect of children being exposed to domestic violence. A child living in a home with domestic violence lives in a world of terror, uncertainty, and selfblame. Too often, the authorities focus on the abuser and the abused, and neglect the young innocent bystander. We know, however, that exposure to domestic violence frequently results in severe immediate, short-term, and long-term effects on children.

Immediate Effects

During a domestic violence incident, the predominate emotion of children exposed to it is a fear for their own safety as well as the safety of their mother (Harrell, 1993). And children are not always simply spectators to the abuse. During the violence, a child may become injured because he or she is in the path of the assault. For example, a thrown object may hit the child; a weapon intended for use on the victim may be misdirected at the child; the child may be in the arms of the victim when she is attacked; children may be hit if they come between the abuser and the victim; and so on.

Anytime there is a violent situation it is reasonable to conclude that everyone in near proximity is a potential victim (Gwinn, 1995).

Some children try to intervene, to protect, or to defend the victim. Often the intervening child gets entangled in the crossfire of the violence and gets injured, sometimes severely. Roy (1988) found that 62 percent of boys between the age of 14 and 17 were hurt when they tried to intervene in a dispute where their mother was a victim.

Short-term Effects

Edleson’s (1999) review of the literature on children who witnessed domestic violence found that children suffer behavioral, emotional, and cognitive problems. He found that children exposed to domestic violence demonstrate aggressive and antisocial behavior as well as fearful and inhibited behaviors (Fantuzzo, De Paola, Lambert, Martino, Anderson, & Sutton, 1991; Hughes, Parkinson, & Vargo, 1989; and Hughes, 1988). Further, these children have fewer social skills than children not exposed to domestic violence (Adamson & Thompson, 1998; Fantuzzo et al., 1991). Children who witness domestic violence were also more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression, trauma symptoms, and temperament problems (Maker, Kemmelmerier, & Paterson, 1998; Steinberg, Lamb, Greenbaum, Cicchetti, Dawud, Cortes, Krispin, & Lorey, 1993; and Hughes, 1988). Rossman (1998) found that increased exposure to violence is associated with lower cognitive functioning.

The child may experience eating and sleeping problems (including "night terrors"), or display withdrawn, passive, aggressive, manipulative, or anxious behavior (Gwinn, 1993). Wolfe, Jaffe, Wilson and Zak (1985) found that children whose mothers were battered had significantly more behavioral problems and less social competence than those children whose mothers were not battered. Another study found a strong association between domestic violence at home and teenagers' depression, hopelessness, and other forms of emotional distress (Colburn, 1994). In addition to concerns about their own safety, children are often torn between identifying with the abusing parent, who has control and power, and feeling afraid, sad, worried, depressed and confused about the parent who is being abused (American Psychological Association, 1996).

Boys are more likely to display more external problems, including hostility and aggression, whereas girls are more likely to internalize their problems, including depression and physical complaints (Carlson, 1991; Stagg, Wills, & Howell, 1989). However, girls, more so as they get older, also show more aggressive behaviors (Spaccarelli, Sandler, and Roosa, 1994).

Long-term Effects

The American Psychological Association (1996) has stated that abusers are psychologically maltreating children by exposing them to domestic violence. Experts in family violence are concerned that children who are exposed to domestic violence in their home begin to see violence as an acceptable way to behave towards other persons (American Bar Association, 1994). As Attorney General Janet Reno articulated so well: "...it is imperative that we really focus on the whole issue of domestic violence and family violence in its larger context. On many occasions the child who sees his mother being beaten accepts violence as a way of life" (reported in Gwinn, 1995).

Silvern, Karyl, Waelde, Hodges, Starek, Heidt, and Min (1995) found witnessing violence as a child is associated with adult reporting of depression, trauma-related symptoms, and low self-esteem among women and trauma-related symptoms among men. In a study on violent families and youth violence, 70 percent of the youth who grew up in a home with partner violence self-reported violent delinquent behavior compared to 49 percent of the youth who grew up in families without partner violence (Thornberry, 1994). Straus, Gelles, and Steinmetz (1980) found that boys exposed to violence committed by their father are ten times more likely than boys from nonviolent homes to use violence against an intimate partner in the future. Girls who grow up in homes with domestic violence are at greater risk for experiencing violence in their own teenage relationships during high school dating (American Psychological Association, 1996). There is also some evidence to suggest that wives are less likely to expect safety from a violent husband if they had observed their own mothers as victims of domestic violence (Lerman, 1981).


Traditional policing approaches focused on identifying perpetrators of crime, gathering evidence to support an arrest, and apprehending suspects. In contrast, community oriented policing emerged as "a policing philosophy that promotes and supports organizational strategies to address the causes and reduce the fear of crime and social disorder through problem-solving tactics and community-police partnerships" (Community Oriented Policing Office, 1998). The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 authorized $8.8 billion over six years to add 100,000 police officers and to support community policing (Community Oriented Policing Office, 1998). The growth of community oriented policing bodes well for engaging police with community partners in helping children exposed to domestic violence.


Children exposed to domestic violence have been referred to as forgotten victims or silent victims.

Often the domestic violence victim and the batterer receive services. However, the child who is exposed to it is frequently overlooked and too often falls through the cracks of the system. Police alone cannot help children exposed to violence, but they can serve as a critical agent to identify children in need of social and mental health services. Law enforcement and mental health providers can work together to identify the needs of these children. Joined, they are stronger to face the complex issue of family violence and its effect on children. Combined through a partnership, each agency can benefit from the other by sharing responsibility and overcoming barriers (Cronin, 1995).

In the last five years there has been an increase in programs across the country that address the needs of children exposed to domestic violence through a partnership between a local police department and community service providers. This report discusses findings from an examination of a number of these partnerships. The goal of the study, funded by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), was to learn about their programs that serve children exposed to domestic violence.

–  –  –

Our study sought to reveal current practices and develop detailed case studies of promising approaches to help children exposed to domestic violence. The findings can help communities replicate promising approaches. Four research questions addressed how community oriented police departments are working with community partners.

(5) To what extent are law enforcement departments working with community providers to help children exposed to domestic violence receive services to mitigate the short- and long-term effects of the violence?

(6) What types of working partnerships are being formed between law enforcement and community providers to meet the needs of children exposed to domestic violence? How did these approaches emerge? What are the goals of various approaches? What resources are needed to implement different approaches? What are the effects of these approaches?

(7) What can we learn from communities that have implemented a coordinated response to children exposed to domestic violence?

(8) What data exist, or can be collected, to measure the impact of a coordinated response to children exposed to domestic violence?


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