Domestic violence has often been seen as a problem between adults. It was thought that as long as children were not in the same room and actually caught in the crossfire, they were not affected by violence between their parents. However there is growing understanding of the risks to children.
Barnardo’s knows of many children whose lives have been damaged by domestic violence. It is clear that children are not deceived by closed doors. They are acutely aware of tension in the adult world, particularly tension which leads to violence. There is growing evidence that children who live in families where there is violence between the parents can suffer serious long-term emotional effects. Even if they are not physically harmed, children may suffer lasting emotional and psychological damage as a result of witnessing violence. They may be encouraged to take part in bullying or threatening a parent, or be threatened by one parent as a way of controlling the other.
Domestic violence facts
- Many public inquiries into the deaths of children in recent years have shown that the men responsible for the death of children have a history of violence towards their female partners.
- Through violence in the home, children may suffer emotional and psychological damage. The very young may show physical signs of distress such as bedwetting, stomach-aches and disturbed sleep. Older children can become withdrawn or exhibit extreme behaviour, such as misusing alcohol or drugs.
- On average, women contact 11 agencies before they receive the help they need. For black women this rises to 17 agencies.
Domestic violence projects
Barnardo’s aims to alleviate the long-term effects of domestic violence on children through counselling and family support services. Many mothers continue to provide love and stability for their children in very difficult circumstances, and Barnardo's tries to strengthen their ability to cope. Where a parent's ability to look after their children has been undermined by the stress of living with fear, services try to help them improve their confidence and self-esteem so that they can protect themselves and their children from violence.