Though it’s difficult to obtain an exact number due to the nature of these crimes and how often they remain unreported to police, it’s estimated that 10-20% of children are exposed to domestic violence each year. But it’s not just the kids directly in the house that are at risk for exposure: their classmates are also affected by the behavioral problems that often manifest as a result of domestic violence these children directly experience.
Because children tend to act out rather than report these incidents, these disruptions lead to teacher distraction and the interruption of learning. Children who come from difficult situations at home often exhibit aggressive, bullying tendencies; when kids feel powerless at home, they may try to get some of that power back at school. But these behavioral problems have huge consequences: witnessing domestic violence has been linked to lower test scores, reduced college attendance and graduation rates, and even diminished wages later in life.
Even if children do not directly witness the violence, they can still feel its effects. The study showed that “exposure to an additional disruptive peer throughout elementary school leads to a 3 to 4 percent reduction in earnings at age 24 to 28.” Whether the child is brought up in a violent home himself or has a classmate who is, there is still a notable impact later in life.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, a woman is assaulted or beaten every nine seconds in the United States. Women in poverty are more likely to be survivors of domestic violence, and an overwhelming number of these incidents goes unreported. Given that domestic violence and restraining orders are more common in poor populations, this impact is even more prevalent in schools that serve the same demographics. The researchers of this study found that the one action that helps these children who are affected is the reporting of violent incidents.
Reporting these incidents often stops the violence or allows the child to be put in a better home situation. In addition, reporting the domestic violence forces the school to get involved. School counselors can help affected children improve their emotional vocabulary and anger management issues. After working with a counselor, a disruptive child is generally more relaxed, which means the entire classroom can focus on the lesson at hand. The first few minutes of the morning can change the entire course of the day, not only for that student but for the entire classroom. The combination of home life improvement and school counseling can set the student on a much better path and can improve the success rates of an entire school in the long run.