Domestic Violence: Questions and Answers About Child Witnesses

Domestic violence has lasting effects on its victims; child witnesses often suffer psychological and emotional trauma. It’s important for victims and their families to understand the broad spectrum of domestic violence, legal consequences for the abuser, and how to help children move forward from their experiences.


What Is Considered Domestic Violence?

The scope of domestic violence includes a number of behaviors that may or may not include physical contact. While laws regarding this issue vary by state, the State of Arizona considers the following, among others, domestic violence offenses:

  • Threatening or intimidating (includes via electronic device)
  • Custodial interference
  • Disorderly conduct
  • Criminal trespass
  • Stalking
  • Harassment
  • Preventing a victim from using a telephone to make a 911 call

These crimes are often committed in the midst of legal disputes, particularly those regarding divorce and custody.


How Does Witnessing Domestic Violence Impact a Child?

Children need to be confident in the safety and protection provided by their parents or guardians in order to feel secure. When they witness domestic violence, that safety net can be broken. They may withdraw from loved ones or display atypical behavioral issues, which can eventually manifest as serious issues if not addressed. Children don’t need to visually experience domestic violence to suffer its effects; trauma has also been noted in children who have heard the offenses take place.


What Are Potential Legal Repercussions for the Abuser?

If a judge determines that a parent has committed a domestic violence offense against the other parent, their custody rights can be seriously affected. Judges grant custody based on what they deem to be optimal environments for children. Parents should be able to provide basic care as well as measures to ensure the complete health and well-being of the child. Domestic violence may impact the judge’s opinion on this matter.


What Should Be Done for the Child?

There are steps that can be taken to ensure that children who have witnessed domestic violence receive the help they need. First, the abused parent and child witness should immediately relocate to a safe environment, whether it is at a family member’s residence or a local shelter. Then, an order of protection can be filed to prohibit legal contact. Finally, counseling services can assist children in processing their experiences in an age-appropriate manner, allowing them to move forward in the healing process. At Pintel Law Firm PLLC, we’re dedicated to representing our clients during difficult times in their lives and helping them rebuild for a better future. If you’re a victim of domestic violence and have questions about how to protect yourself and your child, contact us right away at (480) 771-4154 for a free consultation.



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