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Supporting Children and Youth Who Have Experienced Domestic Violence

The Nebraska Coalition works to build the capacity of our member sexual and domestic violence programs located across the state to provide services to children and youth. 

Exposure to domestic violence can have a significant effect on children and youth, with short and long term impact on physical, social, and emotional well-being.  By building the capacity of those who work with children and youth, we can help ensure children have what they need to heal and thrive in a community and environment which is violence free.

Serving Children

Children who are exposed to domestic violence may have varied experiences from witnessing abuse to being a direct victim of the abuse. The short and long-term physical, emotional, and psychological effects of domestic violence need to be addressed and support should be provided to the child to assist in the healing process. 

A few important things to remember when working with children:

  • No one deserves to be abused: Explain to them that if someone is hurting them, or someone else, it is not their fault.
  • Take the lead: It can be scary or uncomfortable for a child to bring up the topic of violence so try something like this to connect with them, “I care about you and I will listen to you”.
  • Show Support: Acknowledge their feelings and their perceptions of the events.
  • Do not put the burden on them: Placing stress on the child about custody, or discussing the violence should not be done.
  • It is okay to ask questions or ask for help: The child may need help understanding the dynamics of domestic violence they are experiencing or exposed to. 

Resources - Supporting Children

National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma and Mental Health: 

Additional Resources:

Serving Teens

Many of the same survivor-centered philosophies we use to work with adult survivors hold true also in working with teens. Local sexual and domestic violence programs work on a daily basis with teens to provide support, education, and resources so they can have healthy, happy, and safe relationships.  By making services available to teens they can gain access to opportunities for safety planning and gaining resources so they are able to gain more control over what is happening in their lives.

A few of the important things to remember when working with a teen:

  • No one deserves to be abused: Explain to them that if someone is hurting them, or someone else, it is not their fault.
  • Help them identify supports: Help the teen identify supportive adults/peers in their lives. 
  • They are the expert of their own lives: Ask questions about what they want.  Listen and help support their autonomy.
  • Use their preferred method of communication: Communicate with teens in the way they like to communicate with you.  Ask them how they would like to stay in touch (Facebook, texting, email or other platforms they prefer). You can discuss any safety implications and limitations of the mode of communication and create a communication plan to move forward.
  • Be honest: Let them know your duty to report abuse and neglect and explain how that process works if you do need to report to the proper authorities.

Teen Dating Violence

Dating violence is repeated verbal, emotional, physical, or sexual abuse used to frighten, hurt, and control a girlfriend or boyfriend.  It is a power play and may include:

  • Not allowing them to go out with friends

  • Telling them how to dress, act, or think

  • Hitting or slapping

  • Pulling hair

  • Threatening to find someone else

  • Name calling or put downs

  • Not letting them make decisions

  • Expecting them to apologize or cover for you

  • Following them around

  • Constantly criticizing them

  • Jealousy

  • Possessiveness

  • Threatening suicide if they want to break up

  • Accusing them of flirting

  • Forcing sexual acts

  • Talking them into going further sexually than they want

  • Not letting them leave when they want

  • Destroying letters or gifts

  • Blaming them for violence

The person who is being hurt may:

  • Be scared

  • Feel confused that someone they love hurts them

  • Deny or minimize the behavior

  • Try to change their behavior to stop their partner's behavior

  • Change the way they dress

  • Give up or be cut off from their friends

  • Start to lose self-confidence

The person who is being violent may:

  • Make excuses for their behavior

  • Think abuse is normal in a relationship

  • Make threats

  • Feel like they do not have control in the relationship

  • Grow increasingly abusive over time

  • Face criminal charges

  • Be dropped from their group of friends

If you are in a violent relationship:

  • Remember, you are not responsible for the violence—you cannot make someone hurt you, they choose to do it

  • The abuse will happen more and hurt more without outside help

  • Find someone to talk with about the abuse

  • Think of ways you can be safe

  • Recognize that sometimes it is dangerous to be with your partner, even though you care about them

If you are being violent in your relationship:

  • No one can make you use violence—you are the only one who can choose to be abusive

  • No one has a right to control or hurt another person

  • Accept responsibility for your actions

  • Find someone to talk to who can help you

  • Remember, you don’t have to physically hurt someone to be abusive—think about all of your behaviors

Resources - Supporting Youth

Find Help

If you are seeking help because someone is hurting you or someone you know you can connect to a program near you to learn about your options.

Click here to connection with the Local Sexual and Domestic Violence Program in your community. 

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) 

National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline: 1-866-331-9474

Respect is Love: Text 1-866-331-9474

Nebraska Child Abuse Reporting: 1-800-652-1999

Our Partners

245 S. 84th Street
Suite 200
Lincoln, NE 68510

© Nebraska Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence 2020

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