We all want our children to grow up safely, to live without fear and to be protected and cared for when life is cruel. But kids living in or who have been taken out of domestic abuse situations are far from safe.
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. It can manifest itself in deep anxiety or aggressive outbursts, and can impact on their health, schooling, peer relationships and other developmental aspects.
It is, simply, a form of child abuse.
“No one told me it was a secret but I knew I was not supposed to tell.” Sarah, 11 years old
The Government is currently debating a new Domestic Violence Bill. Under this new Bill, the voices of children will now be heard in the court proceedings that relate to them. This is a great step forward.
With a number of other practical changes, this Bill has the potential to more fully protect both children and adults from domestic abuse.
Barnardos recommends the following practical changes to the Bill:
- The systematic inclusion of the impact of domestic abuse of children in all risk assessments undertaken.
- Introduce an on-call judge system that Gardai can utilise to issue emergency barring orders - crises do not happen just in office hours.
- Extend protections to couples not cohabitating will be included as amendments at Committee Stage.
- Remove fees to access legal aid for domestic abuse survivors. Criminal cases are offered free legal aid so should domestic violence cases.
- Establish dedicated family court and child court welfare service.
- Roll out of child contact centres across the country to facilitate court ordered supervised access visits along with therapeutic services.
Find out more
If you have been affected by domestic abuse or want to find out more about the services available please contact Women's Aid Ireland or Safe Ireland: