In 2019 there were 4,791 disclosures of abuse of children in the context of domestic violence made to Women’s Aid. The abuse of children disclosed included children being physically, sexually and emotionally abused as well as witnessing domestic abuse against their mothers. Some women indicated that they felt their children were at risk of abuse during access visits with their father.
Abuse against children disclosed to Women’s Aid in 2019 includes:
The link between child abuse and domestic violence has been clearly established with domestic violence being a very common context in which child abuse takes place. Exposure to domestic violence is recognised as a form of emotional abuse, as acknowledged in Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children. From our own frontline work, we know that 90% of the women using our one to one services for the first time in 2019 had children.
Custody and Access arrangements ordered by the courts are often dangerous and/or detrimental to the safety and the well-being of children and their mothers and allow the abuse to continue. Children may be directly abused or neglected by the perpetrator during the time spent with them. Children are also emotionally abused when forced to witness the abuse of their mother during meetings to facilitate to access and by the undermining of the relationship and bond with their mother. In 2019, we heard 508 disclosures from mothers that their ex-partners were using access visits to abuse them, often in front of their children. It was disclosed on 102 occasions that children were being directly physically, emotionally and/or sexually abused during access visits with their fathers.
In the majority of families where there are children, and abuse is being perpetrated, the children will be aware of this, and will often hear or see the abuse happening. Children may witness domestic violence directly or hear it from another room or they may notice injuries caused by the abuse. Some children may get caught in the middle of an incident or feel forced to take part in the abusive behaviour. They may also be abused directly by the perpetrator. Children are completely dependent on the adults around them and if they do not feel safe in their own homes, this can have many negative physical and emotional impacts.
To learn more about domestic abuse and children see here.
You can read more about the disclosures of domestic abuse to Women’s Aid in 2019 in our Annual Impact Report 2019.