New Report Shows Children Forgotten Victims of Domestic Abuse

05 Dec 2016 in Press Releases, Advocacy, Featured

Children are too often forgotten in situations of domestic abuse and steps must be taken to better protect them, according to a new report launched by Barnardos today. Bearing witness to domestic abuse leaves children with deep emotional scars and too often there is nowhere to turn for suitable support, the children’s charity added.

Fergus Finlay, Barnardos’ CEO, said: “It should be obvious that even if children aren’t direct victims, they are indirectly experiencing domestic abuse if it is happening in their home. Sadly, every day Barnardos sees the huge impact this has. Living in an abusive environment leaves a massive emotional scar on a child and often results in deep anxiety or aggressive outbursts, never mind the impact on their health, schooling, peer relationships and other developmental aspects. It is, simply, a form of child abuse.

“We know that without appropriate support there is a huge risk of irreparable damage to the child-parent relationship, and frighteningly, the cycle of abuse continuing. This is because research shows children who grow up experiencing domestic abuse are more likely to become perpetrators or victims in their adult life.”

“Daddy bit Mummy’s face. I was very scared. I told him to stop.”

Child, four years old

Dr Stephanie Holt, Trinity College, Dublin, said, “There is plenty of evidence to show exposure to domestic abuse has a developmental impact on very young children, in some cases even starting during pregnancy. Toddlers and pre-schoolers are particularly vulnerable because they are completely dependent on the adults in their lives for comfort and nurture. Where there is domestic abuse, these same adults may be unable or unwilling to do that, neglecting children's basic human rights.”

“No one told me it was a secret but I knew I was not supposed to tell.”

Child, 11 years old 

Karen Hughes, Barnardos Project Worker, said, “Children are usually referred to Barnardos because of their behaviour. It is often only after a few sessions we realise the root cause of their distress is their experience of domestic abuse. While we do all we can to support families to feel safe in their home, to understand it is not their fault and to rebuild the mother’s confidence in her parenting, we cannot provide all the solutions. An additional problem we face is the lack of therapeutic services available to children and families, which would greatly assist our family support in aiding a child and family’s recovery.”

“I know it’s my fault when Mammy and Daddy fight. I can be naughty sometimes.”

Child, seven years old

June Tinsley, Head of Advocacy, Barnardos concluded, “It is clear we must take urgent action to ensure we better support children caught in these chilling situations. This means improving child protection in our domestic violence legislation, ensuring sufficient family support services are available, establishing a family friendly court service and building an infrastructure of related supports, including funding for child contact centres, more family friendly refuge centres and free legal aid.”

 “I don’t want to be like dad.”

Child, 10 years old

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