The kids do get the picture... and it sticks with them for a long time - perhaps for ever. If I would have realized and been educated about the long -term affects the violence in our home was going to have on our children, I believe I would have left long before I did. It's tough not to blame myself when my kids are violence towards each other and me. It was engrained in their little minds from the time they were babies that hitting was okay. After all, they saw Dad hit Mom enough times... and they got hit by Dad enough times... how could they think anything differently?? I realize that they didn't learn the behavior overnight, therefore they can't unlearn it overnight. They now realize hitting is not okay, but it is still a reaction for them to hit. It's difficult to replace that violent behavior with something else,, especially when that's all they've know for years.
Learn from someone who learned from experience - do whatever necessary so your kids don't witness violence or be exposed to it. When you feel there's no one to help you through it, go serching for someone who will listen. There are people who will help you. Women's Shelters, Social Workers, and Police are great starting places.
Please, just do something. The kids don't deserve this kind of exposure, and the effects on them last a long time.