Domestic Abuse is Child Abuse
Michiana Point of View - South Bend Tribune
October 22, 2016
St. Joseph County Lead Deputy Prosecutor, Aimee Herring
According to Indiana law, domestic battery is defined as a person who knowingly or intentionally touches a family or household member in a rude, insolent or angry manner.
Children are often the unintended victims of a tumultuous and violent relationship. Approximately 25 states, including Indiana, specifically address higher offenses and/or penalties when an act of domestic violence occurs in the presence of a child. In Indiana, for instance, it is now a Level 6 felony offense that is punishable by six months to 2½ years of incarceration when domestic battery is committed by a person older than 18 years of age when a child younger than the age of 16 is able to see or hear the offense. When reported, the Department of Child Services will be notified and has the obligation of determining whether the children in that home are safe.
The risk of physical abuse to a child increases drastically (50 percent to 70 percent) by living in a home where domestic violence is present, and the long-term effects may have a traumatic psychological effect well into adulthood. These children are six times more likely to commit suicide, 26 times more likely to commit sexual assault, 57 times more likely to abuse drugs, 74 times more likely to commit crimes against another person, and perhaps most staggering, 1,500 percent more likely to become an adult victim of domestic violence. There are studies that suggest that a child’s brain development can be affected by witnessing domestic violence, ultimately resulting in neurobiological changes to several areas of the brain. Even if your child is not the target of physical abuse in the home, the risks to a child growing up in a violent home are extremely serious.
St. Joseph County lost two vibrant young mothers in 2015 to domestic violence related homicides. In both cases, their children were found at the scene, in close proximity to their bodies. These examples are extreme, but without intense psychological interventions and a strong family support system, those children will likely suffer lifelong repercussions from witnessing this violence. It is estimated that approximately 3.3 million U.S. children are exposed to domestic violence of varying degrees every year.
Witnessing domestic violence is the predominant risk factor in transmitting violence from one generation to the next. We all have the shared responsibility of keeping our children safe.
Therefore, if you have any reason to believe that a child is witnessing violence in their home, it is your responsibility due to Indiana’s mandatory reporting law to contact your local police department or the Indiana Department of Child Services at 800-800-5556.