The Silent Victims: Children and Domestic Violence

37 Pages Posted: 20 Jun 2006


Few of us would fail to intercede if we happened upon a child being physically attacked. Most of us would shield even an unknown child from witnessing a traumatic event. If we knew that a child might come to harm, such as a toddler playing in traffic, most of us would escort that child to safety. On a personal level, we are committed to the well being of our children. As a society, however, we close our ears to the cries of the children growing up in violent homes. It is now time to give them voice.

New research reveals that spousal abuse and child abuse often occur in the same families. Not surprisingly, children growing up in violent families are more likely to become violent teenagers and adults. If we fail to help these children, we acquiesce in training the next generation of abusers and criminals. More importantly, we leave our youngest and most vulnerable victims to cope unaided with their trauma and terror.

Although the Minnesota Legislature has taken proper measures to address domestic abuse, further measures are needed to strengthen our civil legal framework. Part II of this article surveys recent social science research on family violence, including the dynamics of violent relationships and the consequent effect on children. Part III examines Minnesota's current statutory framework regarding child custody, visitation, representation and child protection. Specific statutory and procedural changes are recommended in order to more fully protect children. The need for professional education and coordination of services is discussed in the context of preventing future violence.

Keywords: child witness, domestic violence, domestic abuse, family violence, child protection, child abuse, child neglect, impact of violence on children, guardian ad litem

Suggested Citation

Ver Steegh, Nancy, The Silent Victims: Children and Domestic Violence. Williamm Mitchell Law Review, Vol. 26, pp. 775-809, 2000, William Mitchell Legal Studies Research Paper No. 45, Available at SSRN:

Nancy Ver Steegh (Contact Author)

Mitchell Hamline School of Law ( email )

875 Summit Ave
St. Paul, MN 55105-3076
651-290-6342 (Phone)


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