Exposure to Domestic Violence Can Have Severe Permanent Effects on Children

Friday, July 23 2010

New York, Aug 1 2006 4:00PM: Children who are exposed to domestic violence, even if they are not direct victims of abuse, may suffer devastating effects later in childhood and into adult life, according to a global study published today by United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and cosmetics retailer The Body Shop International. "Domestic violence can have a lasting negative impact on children," said UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman. "It is critical that children grow up in safe and stable environments, free of violence."

The report, based on data from the Secretary-General’s Study on Violence Against Children, found that as many as 275 million children are currently exposed to domestic violence, which it defined as the physical, sexual or mental abuse of a parent or caregiver. The study called that number a "conservative" estimate, due to chronic underreporting and a lack of data from some countries.

Younger children are more likely than older children to be exposed to domestic violence, which can impair their mental and emotional growth at a critical stage of development, according to UNICEF. As they grow up, these children may experience trouble with school work and exhibit limited social skills, depression, anxiety and other psychological problems. They are at greater risk for substance abuse, teenage pregnancy and delinquent behaviour, and are more likely to continue the cycle of domestic violence, either as perpetrators or as victims.

The report urges governments and societies to pay more attention to the needs of children living in homes impacted by domestic violence by conducting public education campaigns and creating and enforcing laws that criminalize domestic violence while protecting children. It also urges governments to improve social services that address the impact of violence in the home on children. "Our report shows that some of the biggest victims of domestic violence are the smallest," said Dame Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop, which is sponsoring an ongoing Stop Violence in the Home Campaign. "Protecting children should be the absolute concern of everybody who is working to see an end to domestic violence."

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