According to the Department of Public Health, at least 750,000 children a year witness domestic violence. Up to 66 per cent of children living with domestic violence are themselves being abused - either physically or sexually - by the same perpetrator. Nearly three-quarters of children on the 'at risk' register live in households where domestic violence occurs.
Children may witness domestic violence in a variety of ways such as hearing violence from another room or getting caught in an incident in an attempt to intervene or stop the violence. Some may also be forced to take part in verbally abusing the victim. All children witnessing domestic violence are being emotionally abused, and this is now recognised as 'significant harm' in recent legislation.
What are the effects of domestic abuse on children?
Children react in different ways depending on age, race, sex, culture, stage of development, and individual personality.
Research indicates that children in violent homes are:
- 7 times more likely to commit suicide
- 50% more likely to abuse alcohol or drugs
- Likely to commit 76% of crimes as young people
Other effects of domestic violence on children include:
- Feelings of guilt for the abuse.
- They may feel frightened, alone and insecure.
- They may feel powerless or confused.
- They may feel ambivalent, both towards the abuser, and towards the non-abusing parent.
- They may become anxious or depressed.
- They may have difficulty sleeping.
- They may have nightmares or flashbacks.
- They may complain of physical symptoms such as tummy aches.
- They may start to wet their bed.
- They may have temper tantrums.
- They may behave as though they are much younger than they are.
- They may internalise their distress and withdraw from other people.
- They may have a lowered sense of self-worth.
- They may feel socially isolated and find it difficult to make friends.
- They may worry, have trouble sleeping and lack concentration in school.
- They may become aggressive.
- Older children may start to use alcohol or drugs.
- They may begin to self-harm by taking overdoses or cutting themselves.
- They may develop an eating disorder.
How can you help children?
They are many ways to help children experiencing and/or witnessing domestic violence.
- Children should be spoken to and reassured that they are not to blame for the violence.
- Children should be encouraged to talk about their wishes, feelings and experiences.
- Children should be listened to and allowed to speak about their feelings in their own time.
- Children should be shown concern and counselled that violence is wrong and that it does not solve problems.
- Children should also be encouraged to do activities that encourage communication. Websites such as The Hideout: http://www.thehideout.org.uk/ has information, activities, a quiz and stories of children living with domestic violence.
What if my child is abusive towards me?
If your child is abusive towards you, it is not your fault, nor should you feel guilty about taking steps to protect yourself and your family. Children who are severely aggressive or abusive can have a negative effect on the other children in the family.
You can contact Swindon Borough's Children's Services who can support you and they may then carry out a needs assessment under the Children's Act 1999. You can also contact the Children's Legal Centre at www.childrenslegalcentre.com or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For further advice if you are experiencing abuse or violence from one of your children, contact the Tulip Group on 0151 637 6363.
Further information and help with your children
Whether or not you and your children move into a refuge, you could call the NSPCC National Child Protection Helpline on 0808 800 5000; or you may want to talk to your health visitor, or other health care professional. If you are pregnant, you may want to talk to your midwife.
Other organisations that you may find helpful include:
Parentline Plus: A registered charity, Parentline Plus provides support to parents under stress and refers to sources of local support. Freephone helpline: 0808 800 2222, 24 hours every day. Website:www.parentlineplus.org.uk
Family Rights Group: The Family Rights Group gives confidential advice for families whose children are involved with Social Services. Freephone 0808 801 0366 10am-3:30pm Monday to Friday Email: email@example.com. Website: www.frg.org.uk
Mind produces a useful booklet, 'How to parent when you're in crisis'. You can print a copy from the website or buy it from the online shop. Website:www.mind.org.uk
Young Minds Parents' information service: Provides help for parents concerned about a young person's mental health. Phone: 0800 018 2138 Monday - Friday 10am - 1pm; Tuesday and Thursday 1pm - 4pm; Wednesday 1pm - 4pm and 6pm - 8pm. Website: www.youngminds.org.uk
You could suggest your children ring Childline on 0800 1111, or they could look at the Women's Aid website for children and young people, The Hideout:www.thehideout.org.uk
Information on this page was sourced from http://www.womensaid.org.uk/