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Carole Mikita ReportingThe experts say when children see violence, they believe it's normal, they imitate it. It is actually against the law. In 1997 Utah was one of the first states to pass a Child Witnessing Law. When kids are present during domestic violence, it also becomes a case of child abuse, a reportable offense.
Last night's crime of a husband shooting his wife then killing himself in front of their eight-year-old daughter was very much on the minds of members of the Salt Lake Area Coalition for Domestic Violence at their monthly meeting today. They say the youngest victims develop fears, they want to isolate themselves, they become withdrawn, some even consider suicide.
Velda McDonald, Utah Domestic Violence Council: "We've had some as young as nine-years-old who thought that, 'I need to kill myself, this is the only way to get out of it.'"
Violence at home doesn't necessarily stay at home with children. Therapists say children learn behavioral patterns that lead to bullying on playgrounds, or dating problems that turn abusive and can lead to rape.
Here in Utah about 25% of the cases of child abuse and neglect are related to family violence, and one-third of children who are present during domestic disputes witness murders.
Anne Burkholder, YWCA CEO: "Part of what we need to do is to establish a new normal for children to help them experience what life is like."
Counselors say children witnessing domestic abuse affects generations. They say it only takes one person to speak out and end the violence. The victims are often afraid of leaving or even bringing up the subject of getting help. There are people standing by to help you with medical care, housing, therapy, job opportunities.