Children and Abuse

Little Girl Crying with Tears

How Children Suffer

Child victims are exposed to and experience domestic violence in many ways. Domestic violence deeply affects children, even if they are not directly abused. Children, more so than adults, live with recurring trauma because they are unable to leave the situation. As a result, their emotional, psychological and physical well-beings suffer.

Statistics on Child Victims

1 in 10 children suffer maltreatment. 1 in 16 suffer sexual abuse. Nearly 1 in 10 children are witnesses to family violence.

The youngest children are the most vulnerable. Over 25% of abused children are under the age of three while over 45% of abused children are under the age of five.

At Turning Point in FY’13, 23% of child clients were under the age of five. It is likely that many child victims in McHenry County are not getting the help they need.

Of the number of children who died because of abuse or neglect:

  • 70.3% were younger than three years of age
  • 44.4% were younger than one year of age

Children in abusive homes are far more likely to be in abusive relationships later in life. Boys who witness domestic violence are twice as likely to abuse their partners as boys with non-abusive care givers. Female child victims are more likely to enter into abusive relationships.

Consequences for Child Victims

  • Aggressive behavior towards siblings, peers or non-abusive parent
  • Increased fears at bedtime, including frequent nightmares and bed-wetting
  • Separation anxiety
  • Regressive behaviors
  • Frequent emotional outbursts or crying
  • Serious drop in school performance
  • Self-harm attempts or suicide threats/attempts
  • Depression or isolation
  • Inability to verbalize emotion
  • Increased anti-social behavior, including lashing out, violence or frequent rule breaking

How Teens and Adolescents Suffer

Teens continue to suffer from consequences of domestic violence in the home, but they are also entering intimate partner relationships of their own. Teen dating violence carries many of the same serious consequences as family violence.

Statistics on Teen Dating Violence

  • About one in three high school students have been or will be involved in an abusive relationship
  • 40% of teenage girls ages 14 to 17 say they know someone their age that has been hit or beaten by a boyfriend

Consequences for Adolescent and Teenage Victims

Teens experience many of the same consequences as child victims. In addition, they are at risk for the following:

  • Alcohol and drug use; as many as two-thirds of the people in treatment for drug abuse reported being abused or neglected as children[1]
  • Running away
  • Cutting or suicidal thoughts
  • Nine times more likely to engage in criminal activities
  • Eating disturbances
  • Fear to try new things
  • Withdrawal from school and social activities
  • Perfectionist behaviors
  • Feelings of shame and guilt
  • Low self-esteem

* Without intervention, these consequences will likely last into adulthood, or may manifest into more serious issues later in life.

How to Talk to a Child Victim

  • Give children extra support, encouragement and patience when they are under stress. Don’t rush their stories and don’t continually ask questions.
  • If your child has trouble expressing his or her feelings, use art and play to create a comfortable environment. Ask things like, “Do you want to play a game?” and “Do you want to draw a picture?”
  • Express your own feelings clearly with children. Relate your feelings to something the child will understand. Example: “I feel sad when I argue with my best friend. Do you feel that way sometimes?”
  • Give children suggestions for ways to calm down when they get upset or angry. For example, it is alright for children to take some time alone to calm down before they talk about an incident.
  • All children and adults have feelings that are hard to handle at times. Reassure children this is normal. Example: “Sometimes kids get scared and that is alright.” Or, “It is frustrating when things don’t work out.”
  • Help children own their feelings so they can express themselves more clearly. Example: “You feel angry now,” instead of, “He makes you angry.” The first is a statement of feeling, the second is a reaction to an incident.


“Child Abuse Facts.” Safe Horizon. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 June 2014.               <–incest-55/child-abuse


Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2013). Child abuse and neglect fatalities 2011: Statistics and

interventions. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s

Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2013). Long-term consequences of child abuse and neglect.

Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau.

“National Child Abuse Statistics.” Prevention and Treatment of Child Abuse. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 June

2014. <>.

U.S. Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. By Callie M. Rennison and Sarah Welchans. N.p.,

31 Jan. 2002. Web. 09 June 2014. <>