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Effects of abuse on children

Effects of abuse on children

Domestic abuse at home can have an enormous impact on young people and most will experience both short and long-term effects. The impacts can include feeling powerless or guilty, suffering from symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, effects on building social relationships and on development. Each child or young person will respond differently, so some may experience both physical and emotional effects, some just one or the other and some may appear to show no negative effects.

As well as experiencing abuse themselves, witnessing domestic abuse can have long lasting and very damaging consequences. In many cases, witnessing abuse may be classed as experiencing it themselves due to the nature of the effects it can have.

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Questions & Answers

  • Children will respond in different ways but some of the effects may be:
  • They may become anxious or depressed.
  • They may have difficulty sleeping.
  • They have nightmares or flashbacks.
  • They can be easily startled.
  • They may complain of physical symptoms such as tummy aches and may start to wet their bed.
  • They may have temper tantrums and problems with school.
  • They may behave as though they are much younger than they are.
  • They may become aggressive or they may internalise their distress and withdraw from other people.
  • They may have a lowered sense of self-worth.
  • Older children may begin to play truant, start to use alcohol or drugs, begin to self-harm by taking overdoses or cutting themselves or have an eating disorder.

(Reference: https://www.womensaid.org.uk/information-support/what-is-domestic-abuse/impact-on-children-and-young-people/)

If the child, or anyone in the household, is at immediate risk of harm, always call the Police in the first instance. The Police will assess the immediate risk and take the appropriate steps to protect everyone involved.

Once out of immediate danger, seek support from a local domestic abuse service, who will have workers specially trained to give guidance on protecting children from abuse. This may involve moving the child into refuge accommodation with the non-abusing parent so they are safe and can begin to heal from their experiences.

Any physical, emotional, sexual, financial or coercive or controlling behaviour towards a child would be classed as domestic abuse. For it to be domestic abuse, the perpetrator would be a relative or family member, either by blood, marriage or family set-up. Specialist support is available for children who have experienced, and / or witnessed, domestic abuse, including therapeutic support, practical support and creative therapies.

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