In Canada, it is estimated that each year 800,000 children are exposed to a woman being abused. When children witness abuse they receive the message that violence is an acceptable way to resolve conflict and therefore a normal part of a relationship.
The impact of witnessing abuse depends on the age and developmental stage of the child, the frequency and severity of the abuse along with the support systems in place for the child.
Children often become victims of physical violence as well. Children are harmed in 10 percent of spousal assaults against women and 4 percent of spousal assaults against men.
Typical long-term effects on children witnessing a woman being abused
Adapted from A handbook for health and social service providers and educators on children exposed to woman abuse/family violence, Ottawa: Health Canada, 1999.
|Infants||Preschool||5–12 years||12–18 years|
|Disruption in eating and sleeping routines||Poor concentration||Low self-esteem||Being abused or becoming abusive|
|Fearful of loud noises||Fear||Post-traumatic stress disorder||Suicidal behaviour|
|Delays in development||Separation anxiety||Self-harm||Disrespect for females|
|Excessive crying||Frequent illness||Bullying||Bullying|
|Physical neglect||Hitting, biting||Depression||Poor peer relationships|
|Anger and aggression||Problems in school||Feeling over-responsible|
|Cruelty to animals||Inappropriate sexual behaviour||Pleasing behaviour|
|Regressive behaviour||Alcohol/drug use||Anxiety and tension|
|Destruction of property|
- In 2004, 7% of women and 6% of men reported having been assaulted by an intimate partner in the previous five years.
- Almost 30,000 women and dependent children were admitted to Ontario shelters between April 1, 2003 and March 31, 2004.
- 53% of Ontario women escaping abusive situations were admitted with their children; 65% of these children were under the age of 10.
- 51% of women and 34% of men who reported to the police that they had been assaulted by their spouse said their children had witnessed the violence; of those, 62% of woman and 49% of men feared for their lives.
- 16% of women who were victimized by their spouse were sexually assaulted.
- Almost 45% of women and 19% of men assaulted by a partner suffered physical injuries.
- 22% of men and women accused of spousal homicide or attempted spousal homicide had a history of police-reported spousal violence.
- Only 37% of women and 17% of men who were victims of spousal abuse reported it to the police.