What are the effects of domestic violence and abuse on children?

You may be worried about how domestic violence and abuse is affecting your children. Even if you think your children don’t know that the domestic violence and abuse is happening they probably do. It can be very difficult for children living in families where there is violence and abuse and it can affect them in different ways. This can include:

  • becoming anxious or depressed
  • having difficulty sleeping
  • having nightmares or flashbacks
  • being easily startled
  • complaining of physical symptoms such as tummy aches
  • starting to wet their bed
  • having temper tantrums
  • behaving as though they are much younger than they are
  • having problems with school
  • becoming aggressive or they may internalise their distress and withdraw from other people
  • having a lowered sense of self-worth
  • begining to play truant or start to use alcohol or drugs
  • begining to self-harm by taking overdoses or cutting themselves
  • having an eating disorder
  • feeling angry, guilty, insecure, alone, frightened, powerless or confused
  • growing up to think that domestic violence and abuse is normal

In what ways can children witness domestic violence and abuse?

Children can ‘witness’ domestic violence in a many different ways. They may be:

  • Caught in the middle of an incident as they want to try and stop it
  • In the room next door and hear the abuse or see any resulting injuries
  • Needed to help you tend to any injuries
  • Forced to stay in one room or may not be allowed to play
  • Forced to witness sexual abuse
  • Forced to take part in verbally abusing you by your partner/family member.

Remember – children are at risk of harm if they are attempting to protect one of their parents from the other.

What help is available for my children?

There are a number of different forms of help available for your children, ranging from direct support to counselling servicesclick here for a full list of available services.

Will my children be taken away from me?

Children are vulnerable and as such, a priority for all of us. Social Services and other agencies can offer support in many ways and help your children deal with the issues they experience living within an abusive household. If the police have become involved they will work with Social Services when there is a significant concern that a child may be affected by domestic violence and abuse.

It is only in cases where there is a significant risk to the safety or well being of a child that any action regarding a decision to remove your child is considered. If Social Services or the police are concerned about your children living in an abusive household they will always try to offer you and your children support as a first step so they can remain living with you.

Decisions regarding taking children into care are made by a group of professionals based on many aspects of risk and you will be invited to be involved in this decision making process. You will be given a chance to talk about your situation and ways you can help support your children together with the support agencies. Any involvement by Social Services or West Midlands Police is based on the best interests of the children involved, and as long as you put the interests and safety of your children as a priority, then the professional group will help you to reduce any risk and support you all through this difficult period.