Every child deserves a safe and secure home. But witnessing domestic abuse can have long-term effects on children and young people. That’s why we’ve got advice and support for parents and carers to help keep children safe from domestic abuse.
Domestic abuse is any type of controlling, bullying, threatening or violent behaviour between people in a relationship. It can seriously harm children and young people and witnessing domestic abuse is child abuse. It's important to remember domestic abuse:
- can happen inside and outside the home
- can happen over the phone, on the internet and on social networking sites
- can happen in any relationship and can continue even after the relationship has ended
- both men and women can be abused or abusers.
Domestic abuse can be emotional, physical, sexual, financial or psychological, such as:
- kicking, hitting, punching or cutting
- rape (including in a relationship)
- controlling someone's finances by withholding money or stopping someone earning
- controlling behaviour, like telling someone where they can go and what they can wear
- not letting someone leave the house
- reading emails, text messages or letters
- threatening to kill someone or harm them
- threatening to another family member or pet.
It can be difficult to tell if domestic abuse is happening and those carrying out the abuse can act very different when other people are around. Children and young people might also feel frightened and confused, keeping the abuse to themselves.
Signs that a child has witnessed domestic abuse can include:
- aggression or bullying
- anti-social behaviour, like vandalism
- anxiety, depression or suicidal thoughts
- attention seeking
- bed-wetting, nightmares or insomnia
- constant or regular sickness, like colds, headaches and mouth ulcers
- drug or alcohol use
- eating disorders
- problems in school or trouble learning
Living in a home where domestic abuse happens can have a serious impact on a child or young person's mental and physical wellbeing, as well as their behaviour. And this can last into adulthood.
What's important is to make sure the abuse stops and that children have a safe and stable environment to grow up in.
Our services can support children and young people who have experienced domestic abuse to help them move on and receive the care they need.
If a child talks to you about domestic abuse it's important to:
- listen carefully to what they're saying
- let them know they've done the right thing by telling you
- tell them it's not their fault
- say you'll take them seriously
- don't confront the alleged abuser
- explain what you'll do next
- report what the child has told you as soon as possible.
If you're an adult experiencing domestic abuse, there are organisations that can help.
0300 003 0396
You can talk to Relate about your relationship, including issues around domestic abuse.
- National Domestic Violence Helpline
0808 2000 247
A 24 hour free helpline run in partnership between Women's Aid and Refuge.
- Men's Advice Line
0808 801 0327
Advice and support for men experiencing domestic violence and abuse.
- National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline
0800 999 5428
Emotional and practical support for LGBT+ people experiencing domestic abuse.
For children and young people
Our Domestic Abuse, Revovering Together (DART™) is a therapeutic service for mothers and children who have experienced domestic abuse.
Find out more about all our services for children, including how to get in touch with ones in your area.
The Hide Out, created by Women's Aid, is a space to help children and young people understand abuse. It also helps them learn how to take positive action.
We understand how difficult it is for children to talk about domestic abuse. Whether it's happening now or happened in the past, Childline can be contacted 24/7. Calls to 0800 1111 are free and confidential. Children can also contact Childline online.
Childline has information and advice for children and young people about domestic abuse, including why it happens and what they can do.
If you are, or think you might be, domestically abusing a member of your family, there's help available.
Respect offers information, advice and support to perpetrators of abuse.
- Call Respect – People living in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland can call for free on 0808 802 4040 (Monday – Friday 9am-5pm).
- Email Respect – You can email Respect on firstname.lastname@example.org. They aim to reply to emails within two working days.
- Chat online – Respect have a webchat service available on Tuesdays and Thursdays 10am-4pm.
Work or volunteer with children and families?
Visit NSPCC Learning for information, resources and training to help you safeguard and protect children and young people across the UK.
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