The government’s consultation on the Domestic Abuse and Violence Bill is failing to see the full picture of the effects of domestic abuse on children, says Barnado’s. Children are not just witnesses – growing up in a household where there is domestic abuse and violence can have serious a serious impact on children’s mental health which can last the rest of their lives. Experience shows that children affected by domestic abuse are more likely to be in abusive relationships themselves when they’re older, become victims of child sexual exploitation or go on to sexually harm other children.
Barnardo’s Chief Executive Javed Khan said:
“Barnardo’s knows first-hand that children and young people are often the forgotten victims of domestic abuse. They are not just witnesses, even if abuse and violence isn’t aimed directly at them.
“Growing up in families where there is abuse or violence can lead to serious emotional effects which can stay with children for life.
“Research in our services shows many children who have been sexually exploited or who show harmful sexual behaviour live in households where there is abuse or violence. They are also more likely to be in abusive relationships themselves later in life.
“Children and young people need specialist support to overcome trauma and go on to lead happy, healthy lives and this bill is a missed opportunity to put them at the centre of their strategy.”
Barnardo’s works with victims, perpetrators and children in its specialist domestic abuse services, but the charity also works with children who are affected by domestic abuse in many of its other services.
An increasing amount of evidence shows children who experience stressful and poor quality childhoods are more likely to develop health-harming and anti-social behaviours, perform poorly in school, become involved in crime and less likely to be a productive member of society.
Barnardo’s is also calling for a joined-up governmental approach involving key departments including Health and Social Care, Education, Work and Pension and Housing, Communities and Local Government to tackle and prevent domestic abuse in the long term.