Domestic Violence and its Effects on Children

Photo by Ksenia Makagonova on Unsplash

History

The history of child protective orders has evolved throughout the decades and child protective services has transformed to what they are in today’s society. Prior to 1875, there were very few interventions in place to protect children from abuse or witnessing abuse. The emergence was after the case of Mary Ellen Wilson who was beaten and neglected as a child. The abuse she endured was brought to the attention of Etta Wheeler, a religious missionary, who contacted local authorities that declined investigation into the claims. As there were no programs in place for abused children, she turned to the founder of the ASPCA, Henry Bergh. Henry contacted his lawyer and papers were drafted to remove Mary Ellen Wilson from the custody of her guardians. Following this, the creation of “The Child Protection System in the United States” was founded and devoted to child protection. In 1875, the world’s first program entirely devoted to child protection, known as the NYSPCC was founded (Myers, 2008).

Children who have witnessed abuse or have been abused themselves directly benefit from this legislation. The legislation works to prevent exposing anyone under the age of 18 to domestic violence, even if the abuse is not directly being aimed at them. By putting these measures in place, proper care can be taken of the children, depending on their situations.

Representative Taylor of the 173rd proposed this bill amendment to include witnessing and punishments of the second and third degree and is known as House Bill 489 (Taylor, n.d.).

Main Points

As of April 2016, 24 states in the United States and Puerto Rico have legislation that addresses the issue of a child being witness to an act of domestic violence (Child Welfare Information Gateway, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, & Administration of Children, Youth, and Families, 2016). Of those 24 states, Georgia has outlined in its legislation GA. CODE ANN. 16–5–70 “Cruelity to Children” a series of subsections relating to various forms child abuse and neglect and the resulting consequences (National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse & National District Attorneys Association, n.d.). This legislation was developed in order to protect children not only from direct harm, but also from bearing witness to any form of violence (National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse & National District Attorneys Association, n.d). The portion of legislation from 16–5–70 that defines the act of witnessing as part (d) and part (e)(3) lists the consequences for violating this law (National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse & National District Attorneys Association, n.d). The direct wording for section (d) is as follows:

(d) Any person commits the offense of cruelty to children in the third degree when: (1) Such person, who is the primary aggressor, intentionally allows a child under the age of 18 to witness the commission of a forcible felony, battery, or family violence battery; or (2) Such person, who is the primary aggressor, having knowledge that a child under the age of 18 is present and sees or hears the act, commits a forcible felony, battery, or family violence battery. (National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse & National District Attorneys Association, n.d).

Outcome

The legislation, in its stated form, did achieve its purpose. It explained all of the statistics regarding the cruelty of children in the United States. Along with this, research and data was collected on the impact of domestic violence on children. They used this data in order to make rules and regulations to prevent cruelty against minors and for having a plan for when and if it occurs (National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse & National District Attorneys Association, n.d). Also, a list of services for exposed children was included and Georgia has implemented training and collaboration needed in order to change the problem (National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse & National District Attorneys Association, n.d). A multisystem interventions for exposed children. Specifically, the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act was enacted to regulate programs to encourage the development and the use of multisystem intervention designs that will respond to the needs of children who were subject to domestic violence (National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse & National District Attorneys Association, n.d).

Proposed Revisions

This piece of legislation was felt by the group to have met its intended purpose and therefore does not require any revisions. It outlines the age which defines the child, in this case anyone under 18 years old, which is key since the definition of “child” can range based on context (National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse & National District Attorneys Association, n.d). Also, this legislation clearly outlines its definition of “witnessing”, as well as the consequences for violating this piece of legislation (National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse & National District Attorneys Association, n.d). For all these reasons it was felt that no revisions are required.

Conclusion

Legislation 16–5–70 was developed to protect children from cruelty, whether it be direct or indirect. This includes, but not limited to, direct physical or mental harm or witnessing acts of domestic violence for all children under the age of 18 regardless of race, religion, culture, or gender. It has impacted the lives of many children by shielding them from the wrath of domestic violence, offering crisis support, individual counseling, and educational groups (National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse & National District Attorneys Association, n.d).

References

Child Welfare Information Gateway, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, &

Administration of Children, Youth, and Families. (2016). Child witnesses to domestic violence. Child Welfare Information Gateway. https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubpdfs/witnessdv.pdf

Myers, J. (2008). A short history of child protection in America. Family Law Quarterly, 42(3),

449–463. Retrieved March 17, 2021, from https://us.sagepub.com/sites/default/files/upm-binaries/35363_Chapter1.pdf

National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse & National District Attorneys Association. (n.d.). Criminal child neglect and abandonment laws. National District Attorneys Association. Retrieved March 17, 2021, from https://ndaa.org/wp-content/uploads/Criminal-Child-Neglect-and-Abandonment-2014.pdf

Prevent Child Abuse Georgia. (2020). Georgia child abuse & neglect statistics. Prevent Child

Abuse Georgia. https://abuse.publichealth.gsu.edu/files/2020/06/Stat-fact-sheet-2020-

March.pdf

Taylor. (n.d.). House bill 489. Georgia General Assembly. Retrieved March 20, 2021, from

https://www.legis.ga.gov/api/legislation/document/20192020/182863

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