Around 11,000 children in Northern Ireland live with domestic violence on a daily basis, it was revealed today.
Every year six people are killed because of the abuse, Northern Ireland Women's Aid added.
Victims can be subjected to physical, emotional, financial or sexual harm.
Patricia Lyness from the women's centre said: "Children who come into our refuges with their mothers are homeless.
"They are away from their routine, their normal environment. They may have witnessed or experienced the violence. Sometimes the impact means they have to change schools."
Usually the perpetrator is a man. In the financial year 2004/05, 389 children stayed with their mothers in three refuges in Belfast and Lisburn, Women's Aid said.
For women experiencing domestic violence the fear of losing their children can be a powerful inhibitor to seeking help.
Often a woman will be challenged in her role as a mother by the abuser, calling her useless, unfit or uncaring, the support group added.
Children can experience feelings of fear, anger or shame. Inability to concentrate, sleeping and eating disorders are among possible side-effects along with damage to relations with others.
Ms Lyness added there was a lot of support available at the refuge and often children recovered to lead normal lives and form strong relationships with their mothers.
"We can work with children and young people in schools and youth clubs looking at healthy relationships and trying to prevent the violence," she said.
Efforts are being made at an official level to tackle the abuse. Co-operation between the different arms of government has improved, she added.
Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister Gerry Kelly visited the Belfast Women's Refuge yesterday.
"For too long domestic violence has been a hidden crime. It can no longer be excused or ignored," he said.
"Carried out behind closed doors it has been considered by some as a private matter - but whether it is as a government, an individual, a friend or neighbour, we must not avert our eyes or do nothing to prevent it happening."