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What about children affected by domestic violence and abuse?

If you are a young person reading this section and looking for information relating to you - please click here. 

To find out more information, please click on one of the following questions:

More information on children and domestic abuse (domestic violence) can be found in the Professionals area of this website, which can be accessed by everyone.

In what ways does domestic violence and abuse affect my friend's children?

Children learn from their environments and / or their parents. Because of their experiences, they can grow up thinking that a certain situation (e.g. domestic violence and abuse) is normal.

Normalising such behaviour for children is dangerous, as they may take their experiences with them through to adult life.

Young people experiencing domestic violence and abuse either directly or indirectly, can become withdrawn, violent, and lose confidence in themselves. The experiences can also have a significant emotional impact on them. The Royal College of Psychiatrists states that children or young people might:

  • become anxious or depressed
  • have difficulty sleeping
  • have nightmares or flashbacks
  • be easily startled
  • complain of physical symptoms such as tummy aches
  • start to wet their bed
  • have temper tantrums
  • behave as though they are much younger than they are
  • have problems with school
  • become aggressive or they may internalise their distress and withdraw from other people
  • have a lowered sense of self-worth 
  • begin to play truant or start to use alcohol or drugs
  • begin to self-harm by taking overdoses or cutting themselves 
  • have an eating disorder  

Children may also feel angry, guilty, insecure, alone, frightened, powerless or confused.

In what ways can children witness violence and abuse?

Children can 'witness' domestic violence and abuse in many different ways.  They may be:

  • Caught in the middle of an incident as they want to try and stop it
  • In the room next door and hear the abuse or see any resulting injuries 
  • Needed to help the victim tend to any injuries
  • Forced to stay in one room or may not be allowed to play.
  • Forced to witness sexual abuse
  • Forced to take part in verbally abusing the victim

Remember - children are at risk of harm if they are attempting to protect one of their parents from the other.

The risks of harm to children exposed to domestic abuse have now been recognised. An amendment to the definition of harm in the Children Act 1989 now includes 'impairment suffered from seeing or hearing the ill treatment of another' (Adoption and Children Act ,2002).

This reflects that young people living with domestic violence and abuse are over-represented among those referred to statutory children and families teams with concerns about child abuse and neglect. It also represents the fact that they can account for around two thirds of cases seen at child protection conferences. 

What help is available for my friend's children?

There are a number of different forms of help available for your friend and their children, ranging from direct support to counselling services. Many of which can be found in our Service Directory.

Children are vulnerable and as such, a priority for all of us. As long as parents have the interests and safety of their children as a priority - Social Services can help in many ways.

Warwickshire Police will work with Social Services when there is a significant concern that a child may be affected by domestic abuse (domestic violence). Social Services and numerous support agencies can help children deal with the issues raised by living within an abusive household.

Will my friend's children be taken away from them?

It is only the cases where there is a significant risk to the safety or well being of a child that any action regarding a decision to remove a child is considered.

Decisions regarding children are made by a group of professionals based on many aspects of risk and parents are invited to be involved in this decision making process.

In general any involvement by Social Services or Warwickshire Police is based on the best interests of the children involved, and as long as parents put the interests and safety of their children as a priority, then the professional group will help your friend to reduce any risk and support them all through this difficult period.

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