Location: Considerations: How children feel | Language: en

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How children feel

Many women try to hide the abuse from their children in order to protect them, or because they feel ashamed.
But if the mother does not talk about it, the children will not dare to bring it up. There is a chance that she is staying with the abuser so the children can have a father, while the children hope that she will finally leave him.


How children suffer

Even if the children do not actually see the acts of violence, they are aware of exactly what is going on. A study on domestic violence showed that nearly all of the children were able to describe what happened in detail. Children often believe it is their fault that their parents are fighting. They try not to make any mistakes and to protect their mother when she is attacked. When children realise that they are unable to make a difference, they become quiet and nervous or extremely aggressive.


  • depression, suicidal thoughts
  • bed-wetting, headaches, eating and sleeping disorders
  • drugs and alcohol
  • excessive violence
  • failure at school

Because tension at home overwhelms the children, they seek to divert their parents’ attention back to themselves by unusual behaviour.

However, parents in a home where domestic violence occurs will not respond with sympathy, but rather with anger or violence. The instance of child-beating is seven times higher in such families than in others.

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What children learn

Children who witness violence between their parents have a high risk of repeating such behaviour as adults in their own relationships.
They do not learn to negotiate compromises, but that the strongest wins by using violence. Girls and boys learn it is normal that men act like tyrants and treat women with contempt.

»Children need their father«

What children need is:

  • a life without brutality, fear, and humiliation
  • a life together in respect, trust, and peace
  • clear guidelines for behaviour

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Abusers as fathers

  • Domestic violence frequently begins or escalates during pregnancy. This may lead to premature births, stillborns, or prenatal defects.
  • The majority of abusers also beat their children and often sexually abuse them as well.
  • 50% of child abduction cases are committed with the intent to get the mother to return or to punish her.
  • Fathers demand that the children spy on their mother, which forces them into a perpetual loyalty dilemma.
  • Some abusers - even if they are not the biological father - demand that custody of the children be withdrawn from the mother.
  • Fathers enforce and exercise their visitation rights to further harass or injure the mother. They often find out the protected address of mother and child (children) this way as well.

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Are the children being sexually abused?

Many children will hide acts of sexual assault. An abuser usually intimidates his victim to ensure this secret is kept. Furthermore, the child feels guilty and ashamed of what is happening to him/her.
Children must first overcome these barriers of guilt and shame.
Tell the child that he/she has the right to say »no« to anyone who makes sexual demands, regardless of who it is

If you suspect sexual abuse, seek advice from:

  • The Children and Young Persons’ Emergency Hotline (Kinder- und Jugendnotruf)
  • Children’s Protection League (Kinderschutzbund)
  • »Wildwasser« - an association against the sexual abuse of girls

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