How are children affected by domestic abuse?
Children can ‘witness’ domestic abuse in many different ways. For example, they might get caught in the middle of an incident in an effort to make the violence stop, or they may be in the room next door and hear the abuse or see physical injuries following an incident of violence.
Even when not directly injured, children are greatly distressed by witnessing the psychical and emotional suffering of a parent.
“At least 750,000 children a year witness domestic violence. Nearly three quarters of children on the ‘at risk’ register live in households where domestic violence occurs.”
(Dept. of Health, 2002)
Are the effects the same for every child?
Each child will respond differently but the impact will increase when directly abused, witnessing the abuse of a parents, colluding (willingly or otherwise) in the concealment of assaults and whether other issues, such as substance misuse, are also present.
Some of the effects described in a briefing by the Royal College of Psychiatrists (2004) include:
- becoming anxious or depressed
- difficulty sleeping
- nightmares of flashbacks
- easily startled
- complaining of psychical symptoms such as tummy aches
- wetting the bed
- temper tantrums
- behaving much younger than they are
- problems at school
- becoming aggressive or internalising their distress and withdrawing from other people
- lowered sense of self-worth
- older children may begin to play truant
- developing an eating disorder
Children may feel angry, guilty, insecure, alone, frightened, powerless or confused and have mixed feelings about the abuser and the non-abusing parent. Remember that these responses may also be caused by something other than witnessing domestic abuse. There, a thorough assessment of a child’s situation is vital.
Unfortunately, the risk of harm from domestic abuse to the victim and the children increases around the time of separation and may continue through contact with the abuser.
Local information and support
NT Harbour Domestic Abuse Support Service
Provides refuge accommodation for women, outreach for male and female over 16 years old, an IDVA service and group work. Access to the service is 24hrs a day by telephone with face-t-face contact between the hours of 9am to 8pm Monday to Friday and 11am to 4pm Saturday. Telephone (0191) 251 3305, 03000 20 20 25 or visit www.myharbour.org.uk
Counselling, support and advice for children and young people, aged 6 – 18years old, who have witnessed domestic abuse. Telephone (0191) 200 6302 (office hours only) or visitwww.acornsproject.org.uk
Victims First Northumbria
Support and advice to victims of crime throughout Northumbria. Telephone 0800 011 3116 or visit www.victimsfirstnorthumbria.org.uk
The police can take action against an abuser and give advice on home security and other matters. In an emergency ring 999, at other times ring 101 and ask for the crime desk or visit www.northumbria.police.uk
For housing advice and help with re-housing contact a customer service centre in person or by phone during office hours. You can ask for an appointment to see either a female or male officer in private if you wish. For emergency accommodation (out of hours) telephone (0191) 200 6800.
The Domestic Abuse Partnership
Aims to raise awareness and understanding of domestic abuse. Telephone (0191) 643 7383 or email [email protected]
Rape Crisis Tyneside and Northumberland
Barnardo’s Domestic Abuse Services
Domestic Abuse Services work together with other agencies to provide help and support for men who want to change their abusive behaviours. Simply call (0191) 284 7198 to find out more about how we can offer you help and support. You don’t have to commit to anything by calling, you can just have a chat and find out if this is the right support for you.
Domestic abuse and young people
For information on keeping children safe and identifying the signs of domestic abuse visit the NSPCC website.
Northumberland Domestic Abuse Services (NDAS), a Northumberland based independent charity has worked with Raw Productions, to produce a powerful and emotive film that focuses on young people’s struggles with coercive and controlling relationships.
The film highlights the dangers of emotional abuse in teenage relationships. Too many young people are coerced into controlling relationships by their partners, who use their power to emotionally control every aspect of their lives.
North Tyneside Harbour Outreach Service
Support and advice for women and men in the community who are experiencing or have experienced domestic abuse. This can be by telephone or face to face contact. Access to the service is 24hrs a day by telephone with face to face contact between the hours of 9am-9pm Monday, 9.00am-5pm, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday & Friday
0191 251 3305