Safeguarding your children
If you have children, you have probably tried to shield them from the domestic violence as much as you possibly can. Perhaps you are hoping they do not know it is happening. However, in the majority of families where there are children, and where abuse is being perpetrated, the children will be aware of this, and will often hear it or see it going on. According to the Department of Health, at least 750,000 children a year witness domestic violence. In some cases, the children themselves will suffer physical or sexual abuse from the same perpetrator.
Most children, however, will be affected in some way by tension or by witnessing arguments, distressing behaviour or assaults - even if they do not always show this.
They may feel that they are to blame, or - like you - they may feel angry, guilty, insecure, alone, frightened, powerless, or confused. They may have ambivalent feelings, both towards the abuser, and towards the non-abusing parent.
The effects of domestic violence on children can include:
- They may become anxious or depressed
- They may have difficulty sleeping
- They may have nightmares or flashbacks
- They may complain of physical symptoms such as tummy aches
- They may start to wet their bed
- They may have temper tantrums
- They may behave as though they are much younger than they are
- They may have problems at school, or may start truanting
- They may become aggressive
- They may internalise their distress and withdraw from other people
- They may have a lowered sense of self-worth
- Older children may start to use alcohol or drugs
- They may begin to self-harm by taking overdoses or cutting themselves
- They may develop an eating disorder
Violence may also interfere with your children's social relationships: they may feel unable to invite friends round (or may be prevented from doing so by the abuser) out of shame, fear, or concern about what their friends may see.
- They may feel guilty, and think the violence is their fault, or that they ought to be able to stop it in some way
- There can be an impact on school attendance and achievement: some children will stay home in an attempt to protect their mother, or because they are frightened what may happen if they go out
- Worry, disturbed sleep and lack of concentration can all affect school work
You may feel that you will be blamed for failing as a parent, or for asking for help, and you may worry that your children will be taken away from you if you report the violence. But it is acting responsibly to seek help for yourself and your children, and you are never to blame for someone else's abuse. It is important that you - the non-abusing parent - are supported so that in turn you can support your children and ensure that they are safe, and that the effects of witnessing (and perhaps directly experiencing) the violence are addressed.
If you or someone you know needs more information or help, come to the Portland Centre, where you will find genuine support to sustain you whilst you regain control of your life.
This is how we can help you
- A Portland Centre staff member will listen to your problem and discuss your options
- We will seek specialist advice
- We will help you claim all the benefits you are entitled to
- If you need extra support, we will accompany you to appointments to sort out your finances
- We will help you sort out any debt problems
- We will continue to support you throughout the journey to regain control of your life
Just call us on 01305 824333 or e-mail us using our contact form or pop in to see a Portland Centre staff member to receive immediate assistance.