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Children Exposed to Family Violence

When most of us think of family violence we think first of physical or sexual assault but, in fact, the range of abuse is much broader.

Other examples of abuse include:

  • Emotional abuse such as name calling, put-downs, manipulation, isolation, and intimidation.
  • Financial abuse such as controlling the abused person’s access to money or putting all the debt in their name and the assets in the name of the person who uses abuse.
  • Spiritual abuse such as criticizing the abused person’s beliefs and often denying them opportunities to explore or celebrate their spirituality.
  • Cultural abuse such as criticizing the abused person’s cultural roots and often denying them opportunities to participate in cultural events or follow cultural traditions.
  • Stalking includes inserting oneself in the person’s life after they have said they don’t want contact. This includes following them, frequent harassing phone calls, texts, emails, etc

For many years it was believed that children weren’t impacted by abuse between the adults in their home. This was especially true for babies and toddlers who wouldn’t understand it or remember what had happened. It was also believed that if children were sleeping or out of the home at the time then there really would not be any impact.

We know better now. There has been a lot of research done with children and families where abuse occurs between adults in the home and we now know the harm to children can begin when they are still in the womb. Witnessing (seeing or hearing) the abuse is only one factor – we now are concerned that children are even exposed to abuse.

Exposing children to abuse (or severe domestic disharmony) is noted in the Alberta Child, Youth, and Family Enhancement Act as causing emotional injury to children and must be reported to Human Services (formerly Children and Youth Services or Children’s Services). The intention of the law is protect the child from further harm while securing support for the adults to create a healthier home for their children and themselves.

Click on the following links to learn more about how children are impacted at various ages and where to get help.