Domestic Abuse

What is domestic abuse?

Domestic abuse takes many forms. If you are being controlled, threatened or physically assaulted by someone you live with (or used to live with) that is domestic abuse.

It is not always easy to talk about domestic abuse or to know what you want to happen. You may feel frightened, ashamed, confused and guilty.

All of that is understandable. It can happen to anyone and any kind of relationship. But you have a right to live free from fear and are not to blame for someone else’s violence and abuse.

How are children affected by domestic abuse?

Children can experience 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.

We recognise the devastating impact that domestic abuse can have on children exposed to it in their own home.

The Domestic Abuse Act states that a child who sees or hears or experiences the effects of domestic abuse and is related to the person being abused or the perpetrator is also to be regarded as a victim of domestic abuse. This will help to ensure that locally commissioned services consider and address the needs of children affected by domestic abuse.

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.

For information about the support available locally follow this link