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Domestic Abuse

Children and domestic abuse

If you have children, you have probably tried to protect them from any violence as much as you can. You might be hoping they do not know it is happening. However, in most families where there are children, and where there is domestic abuse, the children will know, and will often hear it or see it going on.
Children can witness domestic violence in a variety of ways. Sometimes they may be in the same room and may get caught in the middle of an incident, perhaps in an effort to make the violence stop; they may be in another room but be able to hear the abuse or see their mother's physical injuries following an incident of violence; or they may be forced to take part in verbally abusing the victim. Children are completely dependent on the adults around them, and if they do not feel safe in their own homes, this can have many negative physical and emotional effects. All children witnessing domestic violence are being emotionally abused, and this is now recognised as 'significant harm' in legislation.

Children will react in different ways to being brought up in a home with a violent person. Age, race, sex, culture, stage of development, and individual personality will all have an effect on a child's responses. Most children, however, will be affected in some way by tension or by witnessing arguments, distressing behaviour or assaults - even if they do not always show this. They may feel that they are to blame, they may feel angry, guilty, insecure, alone, frightened, powerless, or confused. They may have ambivalent feelings, both towards the abuser, and towards the non-abusing parent.

Violence may also interfere with your children's social relationships: they might not want to invite friends round (or may be prevented from doing so by the abuser) out of shame, fear, or concern about what their friends may see. They may feel guilty, and think the violence is their fault, or that they ought to be able to stop it in some way. There can be an impact on school attendance and achievement: some children will stay home in an attempt to protect their mother, or because they are frightened what may happen if they go out. Worry, disturbed sleep and lack of concentration can all affect school work.

Help & Support

In an emergency always dial 999
You may feel that you will be blamed for asking for help and you may worry that your children will be taken away if you report the violence.  However, you are protecting your children by seeking help and you are never to blame for someone else's abuse.  Swindon Children Services Referral Team can be contacted on 01793 466903

Swindon Women's Aid is a domestic violence organisations providing confidential services to victims of domestic violence and abuse.   You may want to talk to your local Women's Aid organisation, or to the Freephone 24 Hour National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247, run in partnership between Women's Aid and Refuge, to help you decide what you should do next. 

Young Minds Parents' information service: Provides help for parents concerned about a young person's mental health. The service offers a variety of leaflets and booklets, including one that explores how divorce and separation affect children and young people. Phone: 0800 018 2138 Monday - Friday 10am - 1pm; Tuesday and Thursday 1pm - 4pm; Wednesday 1pm - 4pm and 6pm - 8pm.

Parentline Plus: A registered charity, Parentline Plus provides support to parents under stress and refers to sources of local support. The website contains information on a wide variety of topics of common concern to parents, and it has a number of information leaflets which can be downloaded free of charge. Freephone helpline: 0808 800 2222
Family Rights Group: The Family Rights Group gives confidential advice for families whose children are involved with Social Services. The group has a number of information leaflets available on its website, and it offers an advocacy service for parents. Freephone 0808 801 0366 10am-3:30pm Monday to Friday
Cyber Stalking:  Cyberstalking can be defined as threatening behavior or unwanted advances directed at another using the Internet and other forms of online and computer communications. It shares some characteristics with stalking in that it is deliberate, persistent and personal. It involves the pursuit, harassment, or contact of others in an unsolicited fashion initially via the Internet and email.If you think you are the victim of domestic abuse or cyberstalking, call the Swindon Domestic Abuse Helpline on 01793 610610 or contact the National Stalking Helpline on 0808 802 0300 or Women’s Aid on 0808 2000 247. If it is an emergency call 999.

How you can help your children

Some parents and children use silence or denial to try to cope with the abuse. But most children appreciate an opportunity to acknowledge the violence and to talk about what they are feeling. Do talk to your children - and listen to them. Try to be honest about the situation, without frightening them. Reassure them that the violence is not their fault and that they are not responsible for adult behaviour. Explain to them that violence is wrong and that it does not solve problems.

You could suggest that your children look at the Women's Aid website for children and young people, The Hideout. This website has information, activities, a quiz and stories of children living with domestic violence. You may believe it is best for your children if you try to keep the family together in order to provide the security of a home and father - despite the ongoing fear, and the emotional and physical abuse. However, children will feel more secure with one parent in a stable environment than with two parents when the environment is unstable and violent.