Children who witness firsthand acts of domestic violence taking place in front of them are, no doubt, affected by the act…so much so that they too can become abusers or the victims of abuse themselves.

Hence, that’s the reason Assemblywoman Celeste Riley is sponsoring two bills against domestic violence…one of which would make it an additional crime for committing the act in front of a child younger than 16.

So, just to give you the thumbnail sketch. You commit an act of domestic violence. Crime. You do so knowingly in front of a child younger than 16. Additional charge.

Do you feel the additional charge is necessary?

The bill (A-3271) was introduced in anticipation of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

“Many children who have witnessed domestic abuse at home develop emotional and behavioral problems that impact their development,” Riley said. “They often carry that scar into adulthood and see violence as an appropriate reaction to conflict. It’s a sickening cycle with dangerous consequences.”

The abuser would be subject to prosecution for both the underlying offense and the separate crime of committing an act of domestic violence in the presence of a child.

The bill specifies that the child must be present or the abuser must be aware the child was present and may see or hear the abuse.

“Research shows that children who witness violence are at risk of confounding problems such as failing at school, committing violence against others and suffering low self-esteem,” Riley said.

“It is a parent’s responsibility to protect their children, but if they can’t, we as a state should remind them that this type of behavior is not acceptable ad that there will be consequences for their actions.”

The bill has been referred to the Assembly Judiciary Committee for further consideration.

I do hope they give it its fullest consideration.

I support the notion that children witnessing acts of domestic violence can suffer all the collateral effects, such as depression, and possibly becoming abusers or victims of abuse themselves.

Ordinarily I never advocate for a law when there’s a statute already in place that addresses the crime…in this case something as heinous as domestic violence.

So while not to downplay that collateral effect domestic violence has on children…I can’t help but feel the law in place suffices to address all the victims of a domestic violence incident.

Children who come from a home where domestic violence has taken place, even while not having witnessed the crime themselves, still know that the crime has been committed...whether it be from a prominent scar borne by the abused; or the parent who's disassociated from them because of the abuse.

Is an Additional Law Needed to Penalize Domestic Violence Committed In Front of a Child?