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Childhood Experiences and Domestic Violence

The Adverse Childhood Experience Study (ACES) is an assessment tool used to assess the amount of neglect, trauma, or other indicators of a difficult childhood. Research has found that, the higher the score, the more likely an individual is to experience physical, emotional, and social health problems in adulthood. As the community examines the intersection between domestic violence and childhood experiences, the ACES test is an important tool to understand the dynamics of abuse.

Women who have experienced five or more ACEs are three times more likely than women who have experienced zero ACEs to be victims of domestic violence as an adult. People who have experienced four ACEs or more are eight times more likely than those with no ACEs to be raped later in life (Shriver, 2011).

A clear connection has been made between domestic violence and adverse childhood experiences. None is more critical than those who experience domestic violence as children, such as watching a parent abuse an intimate partner.

The Childhood Domestic Violence Association published these statistics about the effects of abuse on children (2014):

On the other side of experiencing trauma as a child, Intersections will also explore the impact of witnessing healthy relationships in childhood. For many years, prevention work has focused on teaching healthy relationships to students, but the most powerful method of prevention is for children to witness and be involved with couples who are in healthy relationships. Children learn the dynamics of healthy relationships by witnessing and experiencing them on a regular basis, which can reduce the likelihood that they will experience violence.

Finally, when parents experience domestic violence, one of the most common fears revolve around custody and children. For many advocates and those who experience violence, the laws and outcomes surrounding custody, parenting time, and domestic abuse can seem overwhelming and not easy to understand. Due to this lack of information and the anxiety it brings, people stay in violent relationships to avoid being separated from their children. The Domestic Violence Network will host a discussion on advocacy and custody laws to understand this important topic.

By bringing together service providers, experts in a variety of fields, and the community, DVN will facilitate discussions and action plans on the following topics:

  • Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) Test
  • Effects of experiencing domestic violence in the home
  • Impact of modeling healthy relationships
  • Examine childhood risk and protective factors


Beginning summer of 2017, DVN will be facilitating ongoing training to Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS) staff on recognizing and responding to domestic violence, and how the trauma of witnessing domestic violence impacts children.

On August 3rd 2017, DVN hosted a webinar addressing the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACES), which has become a best practice standard in working with clients experiencing trauma. The webinar detailed how trauma experienced in childhood effects health and behavior as an adult.

That webinar became an in-person training that has been requested dozens of times now by youth-serving organizations across Central Indiana.

Our Childhood Experiences Task Force had our first meeting February 13 2018 and brainstormed action steps to effect the lives of youth in Central Indiana who may experience domestic violence or teen dating violence either as a victim or witness. Stay tuned for our goals and objectives!