It is important to remember that whole families suffer from domestic abuse.

Domestic abuse is recognised as an adverse childhood experience (ACE). It impacts upon all areas of children and young people’s lives, including, health, education, the development of relationships, recreation and social activities with wide ranging and potentially traumatic effects that will differ for every child/young person.

Our wealth of experience (over forty years) of working with children and young people who have experienced domestic abuse has provided us with a unique insight into their experience and the impact it can have upon them. We know that children and young people are not passive bystanders but experience domestic abuse with their whole being. They see it, hear it, feel it, and fear it. Children and young people who experience domestic abuse can suffer serious multiple physical and mental health consequences. Many have problems with social development and relationships, and many have problems in school.

We know from working directly with and supporting children and young people that they will have different experiences and interpretations of abuse in the home. As a result, they will all respond in their own unique way and there truly is no set pattern of behaviour, response or impact. Children and young people experience a complexity of feelings about what is happening in the home and can often experience torn loyalties and a strong sense of loss if they have had to leave the family home in pursuit of safety.

It was really bad. Boy aged 7

I couldn’t stick up for myself. Boy aged 11

I couldn’t do anything to help mum. Girl aged 8

I was sad and frightened. Girl aged 6

I was tensed up and knotted inside. Girl aged 9

I blamed myself for what was going on and always felt I was going to be in trouble. Boy aged 12

I was scared it would get really bad. Boy aged 12

I was worried all the time. Boy aged 10

While effects are wide ranging and differ for every child/young person, they can include:

  • feelings of fear, shame, anger etc.
  • underachieving (or overachieving) in school
  • difficulties sleeping and nightmares
  • distracted behaviour
  • outbursts of temper and aggression
  • regressive behaviour such as thumb sucking, bet wetting etc
  • reluctance to eat
  • complaints of tummy pain or pain in other parts of their body
  • low self-esteem and confidence
  • reluctance to engage in social activities
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