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International Youth Day: Raising Awareness of the Effects of Domestic Abuse on Young People

12 AugYoung child sat on steps

Every 12th August is International Youth Day. This year, it fell on a Saturday. All around the world, the achievements of young people were being celebrated with concerts, parades and exhibitions. However, far too many children and young people experience or witness some form of domestic abuse which can have an impact on their lives. Leeway spent this International Youth Day raising awareness of the issue of domestic abuse and how it affects children and young people.

Domestic and Child Abuse

Part of the UK government’s definition of domestic abuse  is “…any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over…” When a child or person younger than 16 is abused, the category of domestic abuse is not applied. However, there are links between domestic abuse and child abuse. Charities that work with children and young people agree that just witnessing domestic abuse is a form of emotional abuse. This is why it is important to recognise that children living in households affected by domestic abuse should be referred to social services as this is a ‘safeguarding’ issue. The welfare of children and young people is everyone’s responsibility.

We know that one in three children witnessing domestic violence and abuse also experience another form of abuse. There are also cases where child abuse and domestic abuse are carried out by the same person.

The Hideout is a website set up by the charity Women’s Aid. The site is aimed at children and young people who have experienced domestic abuse. It lists some of the ways in which a child may witness abusive patterns of behaviour. A child may:

  • Get caught in the middle of a violent incident in an effort to make the adults stop.
  • Hear the sounds of abuse from the room next door. 
  • See a parent’s physical injuries following an argument.
  • Be restricted to one room or not be allowed out to play
  • Be forced to witness sexual abuse.
  • Be forced to verbally abuse a victim.

There are likely to be both short and long term emotional, behavioural and cognitive effects from witnessing domestic abuse. The emotional trauma can show itself in many distressing ways. The young person may become anxious or depressed, they may engage in self-harm, develop eating disorders or start using alcohol or drugs as coping mechanisms.

Some of the Ways Leeway Can Help

At Leeway, we offer support to all those affected by the experience of domestic abuse and we have a Children and Young People’s Outreach team providing specialist support to children and young people. We also provide training to education professionals. Teachers, teaching support workers and nursery staff interact with children on a daily basis. Sometimes they are the only adults that a child sees outside of the family. When education professionals are able to spot the signs that a child or young person may have witnessed domestic abuse, they can respond appropriately and make sure these children get the support they need.

Experiences affect children in different ways. Some may become withdrawn, others aggressive. Through our one-to-one support and group work, we help children come to terms with their experiences and develop effective coping strategies. International Youth Day celebrates the positive contribution made by children and young people. It is never a child’s fault that they have experienced abuse. We try to help them to realise this and teach them the skills they need to build positive relationships.

If you would like to find out more about our training for education professionals, for businesses and for other professional agencies, please get in touch. Call Leeway on 0300 561 0077 or email admin@leewaynwa.org.uk

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