Protecting Children

If you have children, you have probably tried to shield them from the domestic abuse as much as you possibly can. Perhaps you are hoping they do not know it is happening. However, in the majority of families where abuse is being carried out, children will know what’s going on. It’s important to recognise this and get the support you need.

Children witnessing abuse

Children can witness domestic violence at home or during access visits if you have separated from your partner. For example:

  • they may be in the same room and may get caught in the middle of an incident, perhaps in an effort to make the violence stop;
  • they may be in another room but be able to hear the abuse or see their mother’s physical injuries following an incident of violence;
  • or they may be forced to take part in verbally abusing the victim.

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 effects.

Witnessing domestic violence is a recognised form of emotional abuse of children. 

Child abuse

Children in domestic violence situations can, in some cases, also be abused directly by the person who is abusing you.  If you suspect that this is happening, or that it has happened, it is important that you raise this issue with your children and take steps to protect them, for example, by seeking support from Women’s Aid or other local domestic violence organisations, social services or other agencies that are there to assist and protect children.

If your child, or a child you know, tells you that they have been abused, your immediate response is very important:

  • Listen carefully and let your child tell you what happened in their own time
  • Reassure your child that they are not to blame for what happened (or is happening)
  • Let your child know they are very brave for telling you about it
  • Show your child that you are concerned for them
  • Try to stay calm and not let your child see how shocked you are
  • If your child is at risk of further abuse (for example, if you are still living with the perpetrator, or if your children have regular contact with him) then you will need to take steps to protect them from further harm

What can I do?

You may feel that you will be blamed for failing as a parent, or for asking for help, and you may worry that your children will be taken away from you if you report the violence. But you are never to blame for someone else’s abuse. 

You and your children need support. Talk to us to help you decide what you should do next.

Other information and support available

Barnardos run the TLC Kidz Project, a community coordinated response for children and mothers in recovery from domestic violence and abuse. More information, including details of local TLC Kidz groups, is available on the Barnardos website. 

Download the Barnardos Parenting Positively Series of free e-books for parents, children and teenagers. 

There are a number of one parent family groups nationwide. They provide support, information, advocacy and meetings with other lone parents in order to share experiences. Some groups will also offer childcare facilities, training/education for lone parents and information on legal/housing/social welfare entitlements. One parent family support services include: