To help prevent and mitigate childhood adversity, many on-the-ground community partners are hard at work providing needed resources and support to Kentucky kids and families. The Bloom Community Spotlight blog series highlights the important work being done by Bloom Kentucky community partners throughout the Commonwealth.

It’s about time to talk more about the effects of domestic violence on children

By GreenHouse17 staff

For too many years, domestic violence has remained a hidden private matter. National Domestic Violence Awareness and Prevention Month, recognized annually during October, encourages conversations about the topic to connect victims with services and promote community support for survivors.

GreenHouse17 is an advocacy organization that nurtures lives harmed by intimate partner abuse in 17 central Kentucky counties. Our organization’s specially trained advocates are available 24 hours a day, every day of the year, to safely plan and explore possible options for next steps. We provide these core services from our 42-bed emergency shelter on a beautiful rural property in Fayette County, three satellite offices in our service area, and community spaces across central Kentucky:

  • legal and court advocacy
  • individual and group support
  • budget and credit counseling
  • supportive housing 
  • transportation assistance
  • children’s safe exchange and visitation

A commitment to trauma-informed care underscores our approach to services. This means we honor that each person responds to trauma in different ways and believe everyone deserves individualized and age-specific support.

The small farm that surrounds our shelter offers the opportunity for children to play safely in nature, and adults can choose to help with farm tasks to earn a weekly stipend. Meals made with field-to-table vegetables from the farm promote good nutrition and physical health, while non-traditional activities, such as sewing circles and art groups, inspire hope and emotional healing.

Effects of exposure to domestic violence

Even if they have not witnessed the abuse, chances are children know it has been happening. They hear the violence and oftentimes feel scared, too. Every child responds differently to being exposed to domestic violence, but some things are common:

  • Infants may experience developmental delays, separation anxiety, sleep disturbances, and disruptions in feeding schedules. 
  • School-age children often exhibit depression, anxiety, and sometimes aggression with physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches, bed-wetting, and sleep disturbances. 
  • For many teens, poor academic performance or the need to achieve perfect academic performance is common, as well as feelings of responsibility for their siblings or abused parent. 

It takes an average of seven attempts, often made over many years, to escape domestic violence permanently. Leaving is the most dangerous time, especially if the abuser has access to firearms. The decision to stay or return is made to keep themselves and their children alive. Parenting survivors of domestic violence often face more barriers to fleeing the abuse—lack of a supportive network, experiences of homelessness after fleeing, and concerns about losing custody of children are common. 

At least 150 young people, ages newborn to teenagers, live at our emergency shelter with their custodial parent each year, and hundreds more participate in safe exchanges and monitored visitations with non-custodial parents at our offices in downtown Lexington and Georgetown each year. Age-appropriate safety planning and the support of trusted adults are critically important during the healing journey of young people. 

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network, in partnership with Futures Without Violence, has compiled easy-to-use resources for parents, teachers, and service providers. You can download a guiding packet with tips about how to talk to children who have witnessed domestic violence at this link on their website. 

Your Voice Matters

October is a time to demonstrate your support for survivors and their children. Seeking answers to questions can be a good place to start. Does your workplace have a domestic violence policy? How does your place of faith respond to disclosures of intimate partner abuse? Does your professional role require you to provide information, referrals, or reports if abuse is suspected?

If you’re being abused by an intimate partner or someone you care about is being harmed, please call our 24-hour hotline to be connected with an advocate. That number is 800-544-2022.

This post is part of the Bloom Community Spotlight blog series. Contact Melissa Collins at to learn how to get involved and spotlight your organization.