What is domestic abuse?
We know, for some children and families, home might not be a safe place and staying there will be extremely challenging. Some may already be experiencing domestic abuse or worried an adult’s behaviour is changing and escalating.
If you and your family are in immediate danger call 999. If you’re unable to talk press 55 after dialling.
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.
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.
Report a concern with a child
The safety and welfare of children – or child protection – is everybody’s business.
You could be a neighbour, friend, parent, relative, child-minder, teacher, doctor or working for any organisation which has contact with children and young people.
In an emergency please dial 999.
Otherwise you can contact the Child Protection Team:
Monday to Friday (9am to 5pm) – 01708 433222
Out of hours/weekends – 01708 433999
If you’re an adult experiencing domestic abuse, there are organisations that can help.
For children and young people, the NSPCC service Domestic Abuse, Recovering Together (DART™) is a therapeutic service for mothers and children who have experienced domestic abuse.
Find out more about the NSPCC’s 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.