Domestic abuse is when one adult in a family or relationship threatens, bullies, or intentionally hurts another member of the family or relationship either physically, psychologically, emotionally, sexually, or financially.
Domestic abuse can include:
- Physical abuse. This is the most recognisable form of physical abuse and can range from a slap or push, to a broken bone and in the most extreme cases, death. Physical violence usually gets worse over time.
- Sexual abuse. This is when one person uses force or threat to make someone engage in sexual activity.
- Emotional abuse. This includes controlling behaviour, such as not letting them out of their home, making decisions for them, making rumours or talking to family and friends to gain control, mental torture, blackmail, and threats to kill or harm them, a family member, friend, or pet.
- Psychological abuse. This includes stalking, gaslighting (where one person makes another person doubt their own sanity), and manipulating.
- Financial abuse. This is when one person controls the other’s access to and use of finances, and includes stopping them from working, monitoring spending, placing all bills and debts under one name, and withholding money.
Domestic abuse can happen both inside and outside the home, over the phone, on the internet, can happen in any relationship, and both men and women can be abusers. Domestic violence (also called Domestic Abuse) is a crime and a major social problem affecting many families. In 90% of reported domestic violence incidents, children have either been present in the same or a nearby room. It can seriously harm children and young people and domestic abuse is child abuse.
Signs of Domestic Abuse
Knowing the signs that a child has witnessed domestic abuse can help give a voice to children. It can be very difficult to tell if domestic abuse is happening, particularly as perpetrators of abuse may act differently when there are other people around, and victims or children who have witnessed domestic abuse might be afraid to talk about it.
Signs that a child is witnessing domestic abuse include:
- Bullying or aggression towards others
- Nightmares, trouble sleeping or insomnia
- Constant or frequent sickness (e.g. headaches, colds)
- Anti-social behaviour (e.g. vandalism)
- Problems in school
- Drug or alcohol use
- Attention seeking
- Anxiety, depression, or suicidal thoughts
Effects of Domestic Abuse on Children
Children who witness, intervene or hear incidents are affected in many ways, and effects can be serious and long-lasting. Children will learn how to behave from examples parents set for them, for instance:
- Domestic abuse may teach children to use violence, in particular that violence is an acceptable way to resolve conflict
- Where there is domestic abuse there is often also abuse of the child
- Children may blame themselves for domestic violence
- Alcohol misuse is a very common contributing factor for domestic violence
- Domestic violence teaches children negative things about relationships and how to deal with people, and they may learn to mistrust people close to them
- Children may experience behavioural difficulties, problems in schools poor concentration, poor emotional health, aggressiveness, may become withdrawn, and may run away
- Children who witness violence may lose respect for the non-violent parent, or may become over-protective of a parent
- Children may experience a loss of childhood as a result of domestic violence
Domestic violence is a crime. Never hesitate to call the police who have specialist domestic violence officers trained to help you and put you in touch with other agencies who can help you with safety planning, housing issues, drug or alcohol problems or give details of solicitors who can assist you with the legal side of things.