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This section is for young people who are concerned about domestic abuse.
It may be something that is happening in your life, or to someone that you know and care about. Or maybe it is something you want to understand better.
The facts about domestic abuse aren't easy reading, but it can affect anyone. Many young people grow up seeing a parent being hurt or living in fear and may be victims themselves. It doesn't just happen at home. Domestic abuse also includes abuse by other relatives, boyfriends, girlfriends or ex-partners. If it is happening in your life, it probably means you are living with a lot of stress, fear, anger, sadness or guilt.
No one should have to experience or witness domestic abuse. Help is available. The information you find here will help you to understand more about domestic abuse and show you where and how to get help and support.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (which Ireland signed up to in 1992) provides many rights to all children and young people. It declares:
You have the right:
A: Domestic abuse (or domestic violence) is when abuse or violence is used by one person to hurt, bully, or control another person in a relationship.
Domestic abuse is more often used by men against women, but it can also be used by women against men. It can also happen in same sex relationships between gay or lesbian couples.
Domestic abuse can happen in relationships where couples are married, living together, going out with each other or even living apart.
It is often a pattern that starts early in a relationship and gets worse over time.
It can be:
It can also be things like harassment and intimidation such as stalking, making abusive phone calls, emails or texts.
Other research has found that domestic abuse happens even more than that - in about 20% of families. However, as domestic abuse is usually hidden within families and relationships, it's true extent it probably not fully known.
A: Women are more likely to be abused than men. Irish research (in 2005) found that women were:
Children and young people who live in families where domestic abuse happens are more likely to be abused themselves than other children or young people.
Adults whose parents were abusive have more than double the chance of being abused themselves.
Abuse is more likely when people are isolated from family and neighbourhood supports.
People who have a serious disability are almost three times more likely than others to experience serious abuse.
People, particularly women, who are members of minority groups such as Travellers, immigrants or other groups and who experience domestic abuse may be more isolated and find it harder to get help and support.
A: Like a lot of abuse, domestic abuse tends to happen in secret. Often people who are abused are afraid or ashamed to tell anybody. Sometimes abusers use threats to make them keep it a secret.
One of the best ways to stop experiencing or witnessing domestic abuse is to tell someone you trust, who can help you.
For young people aged 12 – 18, and adults.
In abusive relationships, one person tries to be in control and to hold power over the other person. This might include:
A: Yes, many families can have fights or arguments from time to time or people may not always agree. The difference in domestic abuse is that one person always tries to dominate or control the other and uses violence or abuse to get their way. This becomes a pattern and often the violence or intimidation gets worse over time.
A: Sometimes people blame alcohol or drugs for their behaviour and in some cases people behave differently when they are drunk. No one has the right to hit another person and being drunk does not cause it or excuse it. People are responsible for their behaviour and cannot use drink or drugs as an excuse to hurt or abuse another person.
A: Yes, some forms of abuse are against the law, but not all. Physical violence or intimidation is a crime. Emotional abuse is not necessarily against the law but can be just as damaging as physical abuse.
The law provides protection against domestic abuse and recognises people's right to safety and to live free from violence. Courts can order a person not to use violence or intimidation in the home (this is called a Safety Order) or they can order the abusive person to leave the home (this is called a Barring Order).
A: No, it doesn't have to be that way. How you behave is a choice you make. Some people who have experienced domestic abuse go on to abuse others, but many others in the same situation do not. It is common to feel anger or other strong emotions if you have witnessed or experienced domestic abuse, but this does not mean you will abuse others.
It will help to talk to someone you trust about your worries and concerns. Sometimes seeing a family therapist or counsellor can help young people who have lived with domestic abuse to understand and deal with their feelings. This can help in developing healthy relationships in the future.
A: Not all young people who experience domestic abuse go on to have violent or abusive relationships, but some do. Violence in dating relationships can be more likely where either or both young people have experienced abuse. This can be because young people have come to expect and accept violence as a part of couple relationships and think that this is normal. In other instances, abuse or violence can be triggered in response to stress, rejection or jealousy.
If you are concerned about the possibility of abuse in any of your relationships, think about how you are feeling in the relationship and ask yourself. Am I being abused? Am I being abusive? Remember it is always helpful to talk with someone you trust.
A: Sometimes parents think they are protecting their children and young people by not talking, but we know this is not the case. It is good to talk to your non-abusive parent and let them know how you are feeling. You have a right to be listened to and to be involved in decisions about your life. Talking to your non-abusive parent may help them to make good decisions for the family.
A: Feeling embarrassed or ashamed is a normal reaction to living with abuse. It's important to remember that the abuse is not your fault and you are not responsible for it.
Talk to people who you know you can trust and who you want to support you. Keeping abuse a secret will not make it stop. Rather, it allows it to continue. Talking to someone about your experience takes a lot of courage, but it will be worth it. Let someone you trust know what is happening, they can then support you to get the help you need.
A: Finding it hard to concentrate is very common in young people who are stressed or upset. School and education is a very important part of your life. It is where you probably meet most of your friends and can get a break from your situation. More importantly, it is a place where you can be safe.
If you are finding it difficult, ask to speak to someone you know will be supportive - maybe a teacher you trust, tutor or the school counsellor. They will be able to offer you support and may be able to help you to find ways of dealing with your situation.
A: Having a laugh with friends is what being young is all about. But getting drunk as a way to forget your worries is likely to lead to more problems, rather than solutions. If you find that you are using alcohol or drugs to deal with your problems, then you really need to talk to someone who can help you find better ways to cope. Maybe you can talk to some of your friends or a trusted adult or someone who knows how to help you.
Check out the Finding Help section for details of services that can give you information, help and support.
A: It can be hard to know if someone is being abused. Often you might notice a number of things that would make you concerned. It might be something in the way someone looks or behaves, in the way they interact with other people or if they seem withdrawn. These are some of the things that might alert you to abuse.
A: It is completely normal to feel torn between feeling love for one or both parents and anger at their behaviour. No one wants their family to break up, but sometimes it is not safe for people to continue to live together. Lots of families break up for lots of reasons.
It does not mean you cannot continue to have a relationship with both your parents if you want to. Family break-up is a major change in a young person's life but there are organisations that can offer help and support.
Check out the section on separation for more help.
A: There are many reasons that someone might not be ready to leave. They might:
A: You are not responsible for making the abuse stop. Abuse is never your fault. The person who abuses is responsible for their behaviour and only they can change it. Parents and other adults have a duty of care to children and young people.
Secrecy keeps abuse from being discovered and stopped. Letting someone you trust know what is happening is the best way to get help and support for you and your family.
It can be difficult to speak out about the abuse, particularly if the abuser is someone you care about. But, if you, or someone else in the family, don't tell someone about the abuse, it is likely to continue.
A: It's understandable that you want to get away from the abuse and running away might seem like a solution. But unless you have somewhere safe to go you could put yourself in more danger. Many young people who run away from home, without somewhere to go or the means to support themselves, run the risk of becoming homeless. If you feel like running away, it's important to talk to someone you trust. Talk about all your options. Find out what support services are available to you. Plan how they, and others, can help and support you with your situation.
If you are living in a family where there is abuse or if you are worried about your own safety or that of your family, the best thing you can do is talk to someone that you trust. It might be a relative like a grandparent or an aunt, a teacher, or another adult in your life. Keeping abuse a secret is what helps it to continue. Sometimes it can be difficult to find the right person to talk to or the right service for your situation. If this happens to you, it is important not to give up.
If you can't tell anyone you know, contact a service that can give you information, advice and support.
If the abuser is living in your home then you might need a safe place to live for a while. There are refuges for victims of abuse around the country. The Gardaí or the local HSE duty social worker can support you to get the help you need.
Information on other organisations where you will be able to get help and support is provided here. If you know or suspect that someone you care about is experiencing domestic abuse, this information may help you to help them.
A: Living with abuse can make you feel very isolated and alone, particularly as the abuse is likely to be hidden. Many people will understand what you are going through and can help and support you. Talk to a trusted friend, someone else in your family or another adult - a teacher, sports coach or a friend's parent or check out the Finding Help section.
A: A lot depends on the circumstances in which a parent leaves and on what is agreed between the parents or sometimes through the courts. Where there has been violence or abuse in your family, your safety will be the priority. This might mean that your contact with a parent is supervised by an independent person to keep you safe or that you don't continue to see a parent if it is not seen to be in your best interest.
As a young person, you have a right to have a say in decisions that affect you. The most important thing is to make sure that any contact you have with either parent is safe.
Your safety and welfare is the primary consideration in any decision to allow or arrange ongoing contact so the first step is to ask:
Where continued violence, threat of violence or intimidation exists, contact should be limited, supervised and only take place in a safe venue.
Any existing Barring Orders, Safety Orders or injunctions must be upheld and not breached to facilitate contact.
If you want to talk to someone about your situation, make sure that it is someone you can trust so that the information will not put you at greater risk. Violence often increases if the abuser knows they are going to be challenged or if their partner decides to leave. If this is the case you may need to be extra careful and not draw attention to your plans.
If you are contacting any services for help or information, you may want to do it from somewhere outside your home, or from a phone from which calls cannot be traced. Delete text messages or call logs on your phone.
If you are using the internet to get information, make sure you clear your search history and temporary files before you log off. (Most sites dealing with this issue will provide instructions on how to do this.) Your local library can be a very useful source of information and most libraries have internet access also.
Think about a developing a safety plan for yourself. Keep emergency or important phone numbers somewhere you can get them quickly. Some of the resources and links from this site will help you to think about a safety plan.