As adults, children who have witnessed
violence and abuse are more likely to
become involved in a violent and abusive
relationship themselves. Children tend to copy the behaviour
of their parents. Boys learn from their fathers to be violent to
women. Girls learn from their mothers that violence is to be
expected, and something you just have to put up with.
However, children don't always repeat the same pattern when
they grow up. Many children don't like what they see, and try very
hard not to make the same mistakes as their parents. Even so,
children from violent and abusive families may grow up feeling
anxious and depressed, and find it difficult to get on with other
By making sure that domestic violence and
abuse do not remain a shameful secret for the child is the
Professionals working with children should
therefore keep this in mind when working with children whose
behaviour is disturbed and distressed.
For the more serious long-term effects of domestic violence and
abuse, parent and child treatments are available, as are individual
treatments and group treatments for children with issues such as
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.
Children are better able to cope and recover when they get the
right help and support, for example from other family members,
peers, school. Some children find it helpful to speak to a
professional (like trained counsellors).
It is not uncommon for victims of domestic
violence and abuse to take a long time to recognise what is
happening. For some families, domestic violence and abuse are a
"normal" part of family life. Even when children realise that the
situation is wrong, shame can make it difficult to speak out.
However, having a trusting relationship outside the home can
increase the chances that someone affected by domestic violence and
abuse will manage to talk about their experience.
Sharing the secret with someone outside the family is the first
step in breaking out of the cycle of violence and abuse.
Professionals including doctors, nurses,
health visitors, teachers and social workers are trained to keep
watch for signs of domestic violence and abuse. You can always talk
to them and they will work with you and other professionals to keep
you and your children safe. In many areas, specialist domestic
violence organisations can offer support.
Remember, the most important thing is to keep yourself
and your children safe. Domestic violence and
abuse is a crime, so don't hold back from involving the
Once out of the domestically violent or abusive relationship,
practical help may be needed from professionals like social workers
or solicitors. They will be able to help with finding a place to
live, dealing with money problems, and making contact and school
arrangements for the children.