What We Don’t Talk About During Child Abuse Prevention Month

Childhood Domestic Violence Association points to consistent research that shows growing up with domestic violence in one’s childhood home is a significant precursor to child abuse

Physical child abuse, emotional abuse, and sexual abuse are just some of the well known childhood adversities millions of children face growing up in their homes that could have a profound and lasting impact on their lives into adulthood. But one major childhood adversity, which is very often confused with child abuse, has very little awareness although it impacts 15 million children in the U.S. – Childhood Domestic Violence (CDV). CDV is when a person grows up living in a home with domestic violence. From the standpoint of a person in childhood, domestic violence is violence between parents or violence towards a parent — perhaps from a stepparent or significant other. CDV was the subject of the 2014 New York Times Bestseller INVINCIBLE: The 10 Lies You Learn Growing Up with Domestic Violence, and the Truths to Set You Free, written by Brian F. Martin, founder of the Childhood Domestic Violence Association and executive producer of the award-winning documentary film, The Children Next Door.

There is over 95% awareness of child abuse and a definitive understanding that it often leads to problems later into adulthood with relationships, emotions, behaviors, and health. But what is little known is that CDV has a strikingly similar impact. Unlike child abuse and other major childhood adversities, CDV has less than 15% awareness, despite the fact that UNICEF calls it “the single best predictor of becoming a victim or perpetrator of domestic violence” later in life. And this is key in addressing child abuse, because in homes where there is domestic violence, children are physically abused and neglected at a rate 15 times higher than the national average. The statistics are clear – a child is much more likely to experience child abuse or neglect if at least one of their parents experienced CDV in their childhood home. 

“Most people know of or can imagine the extreme negative effects of child abuse,” said Dr. Linda Olson, licensed psychologist and psychotherapist, and CDV Board Member. “But what many fail to grasp is the similar impact of Childhood Domestic Violence on a person, as well as its strong relation to child abuse. And those are key pieces of the puzzle in addressing both issues.”

Evidence also shows that children who are exposed to both CDV and child abuse fare worse later in life compared to those who experience only one form of violence at home. But child abuse is often talked about in isolation and CDV is typically never mentioned, despite the close relationship between the two.

“This month, if we truly want to tackle child abuse, it may benefit us greatly to look at the issue from a different angle,” said Martin. “When we talk about trying to cure lung cancer, we often focus on strong contributing factors, such as smoking. For child abuse, one of these strong contributing factors is Childhood Domestic Violence.” 

About The Childhood Domestic Violence Association:
The Childhood Domestic Violence Association works to help those who grow up living with domestic violence reach their full potential. It was created to build universal awareness and practical, truly scalable solutions accessible with few barriers to all those who are in need. The Association was initially founded in 2007 by Brian F. Martin as Maker of Memories and later renamed to better reflect its focus, growing mission and scope. Using the leading research and best known practices in the field, the Association develops tools and resources that have never existed before and deploys them through partnerships with leading organizations that directly touch the lives of children and adults impacted by Childhood Domestic Violence to help transform their lives. For more, visit www.cdv.org.


There are many ways for you to partner with us and help bring awareness to CDV and make an impact.