We have always been very concerned by court orders which allow contact with a domestically violent parent on the grounds that the violence was between the parents themselves and not the children. However this new research highlights what we’ve said for many years: that domestic violence between parents does affect children and causes them direct harm. Whilst it doesn’t take a genius to work this out, it does, apparently, require research…..

The report goes on to explain that, “As well as witnessing the abuse of a parent, 62% of the children had experienced direct abuse in the form of physical abuse, emotional abuse or neglect. Despite this, just over half (54%) of these children were known to children’s social care services…

In most of the incidents the child abuse was perpetrated by the same person responsible for abusing the adult victim: usually the child’s father or their mother’s male partner.”

The report also notes that a quarter of the children displayed abusive behaviour usually directed at the mother, sibling or friend, rather than the abuse perpetrator. The charity responsible for this research (CAADA) estimates 130,000 children are at high risk of serious harm or death from domestic abuse, while hundreds of thousands more are exposed to abuse at lower risk levels.

The charity’s recommendations for dealing with this enormous problem are as follows:

  • Create a network of nominated lead professionals on domestic abuse and safeguarding across all agencies who work with families, with a shared understanding of risk assessment.
  • Provide linked specialist domestic abuse services for adults and children.
  • Monitor provision and outcomes for children exposed to domestic abuse.

What the charity does not address, is the heightened fear parents have, usually mothers, about coming forward. This may in part account for the huge discrepancy in numbers of children known to social services. The fear of social services taking these children away from these mothers, despite many of them being able to protect their children from harm (and come forward precisely because they have the courage and state of mind to do so) is often what keeps these cases hidden from support services.

Until social workers implement the recommendations above, improve their training levels and learn to work with and not against the alerting parent, we can expect to see many more cases go under the radar.

(For an interesting read from over the pond, do check out this article from the Stop Abuse Campaign.)