Toggle Contrast
Top of Page

8.20 Safeguarding Children impacted by Domestic Abuse policy

Show amendments

Date of last review October 2021

Date of next review October 2022

Contents

Definition

8.20.1

Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. This can encompass, but is not limited to, the following types of abuse:

  • Psychological;
  • Physical;
  • Sexual;
  • Economic*
  • Emotional.
  • 'Controlling behaviour’; a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.
  • ‘Coercive behaviour:’ an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.'

*‘Economic abuse’ means any behaviour that has a substantial adverse effect on B’s ability to:

  • (a) acquire, use or maintain money or other property, or( b) obtain goods or services

Examples of economic abuse might include the following, where they have a substantial adverse effect on the victim:

  • controlling the family income
  • not allowing a victim to spend any money unless ‘permitted’
  • denying the victim food or only allowing them to eat a particular type of food
  • running up bills and debts such as credit/store cards in a victim’s name, including without them knowing
  • refusing to contribute to household income
  • deliberately forcing a victim to go to the family courts so they incur additional legal fees
  • interfering with or preventing a victim from regularising their immigration status so that they are economically dependent on the perpetrator
  • preventing a victim from claiming welfare benefits, or forcing someone to commit benefit fraud or misappropriating such benefits
  • interfering with a victim’s education, training, employment and career
  • not allowing a victim access to mobile phone/car/utilities
  • damaging property; and
  • not allowing a victim to buy pet food or access veterinary care for their pet

The organisation Surviving Economic Abuse has created a guide to understanding economic abuse for victims.

Whilst economic abuse has replaced financial abuse within the context of the definition of domestic abuse within the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 (legislation.gov.uk), financial abuse is still a category of abuse for safeguarding adults and children, outside of cases of domestic abuse.

8.20.2

Domestic abuse can encompass a wide range of behaviours. It does not necessarily have to involve physical acts of violence and can include emotional, psychological, controlling, or coercive, sexual and/or economic abuse under section 1(3) of the 2021 Act. Many victims will experience these abusive behaviours simultaneously. At the centre of all these abusive behaviours is the perpetrator’s desire to exercise power and control over the victim.

8.20.3

The definition of 'harm' in Section 31A of the Children Act 1989 (introduced by the Adoption and Children Act 2002) recognises that a child may suffer harm through witnessing domestic violence and abuse. Domestic abuse has a significant impact on children and young people of all ages (0-18 years old). Children and young people are deemed to be victims under the 2021 Act as a result of seeing, hearing or otherwise experiencing domestic abuse between two people where the child is related to at least one of them whether that be the victim or perpetrator (section 3). A child might therefore be considered to be a victim of domestic abuse under the 2021 Act where one parent was abusing another parent, or where a parent was abusing, or being abused by, a partner.

Black, Asian and ethnic minoritzed individuals and communities

8.20.4

Victims of domestic abuse with protected characteristics (as defined by section 4 of the Equality Act 2010) may face additional barriers to accessing support.

Those from ethnic minority backgrounds may experience additional barriers to identifying, disclosing, seeking help or reporting abuse. This may include:

  • a distrust of the police and other statutory agencies
  • hostility towards the police due to lack of perceived or real support for their community historically and/or currently
  • concerns about racism and fear of racial stereotyping
  • fears about immigration and/or asylum status and risk of deportation
  • language barriers
  • being disproportionately impacted by certain forms of VAWG, including forced marriage, staying within an abusive marriage, so called ‘honour’-based abuse and female genital mutilation (FGM)
  • concerns about family finding out; and
  • fear of rejection by the wider community

This type of abuse is most commonly experienced by victims from close-knit or closed communities with a strong culture of ‘honour’ and ‘shame’, such as some minority communities, travelling communities or closed ethnic/religious communities and other particularly isolated social groups. Victims may be female or male and those at risk can include individuals who are LGBT.

There is often under-reporting of domestic abuse by minority communities, with many victims reporting that stereotypes and assumptions were made about them coming from ‘cultures where violence against women and girls was normalised and accepted’ or their experiences of domestic abuse were treated as housing and immigration cases by public authorities.  

Immigration status and migrant victims

8.20.5

Victims who have entered the UK from overseas may face barriers when attempting to escape domestic abuse relating to their immigration status or lack thereof. Some victims may not have access to public services and funds which can lead to greater dependence on the partner or family if they have supported their being in the UK. They may also face a greater economic impact of leaving an abuser if they are unable to claim benefits or access housing, or if they lose their immigration status by leaving their partner, including destitution and homelessness. This may be exploited by partners or family members to exert control over victims. Examples of this include:

  • threatening to inform immigration authorities
  • being separated from their children; or
  • threatening to no longer provide support for their stay in the UK

For more information - http://www.bawso.org.uk/home/what-is-domestic-abuse/domestic-abuse-from-a-bme-perspective/

Available in 13 languages - https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/three-steps-to-escaping-domestic-violence

LGBTQ+ individuals and communities

8.20.6

There are many similarities between heterosexual and LGBT people’s experiences of domestic abuse. However, LGBT victims may also experience abuse of power and control closely associated with having their sexuality or gender identity used against them. This may include the following abusive behaviours:

  • threats of disclosure of sexual orientation and gender identity to family, friends, work colleagues, community and others
  • disclosing gender identity history, sexual orientation or HIV status without consent
  • limiting or controlling access to LGBT spaces or resources
  • using immigration law to threaten with deportation to the country of origin, which might be unsafe due to for example. anti-gay legislation; and
  • so-called ‘conversion therapy’ practices, ranging from pseudo-psychological practices to, in extreme circumstances, violent physical or sexual acts, which can be motivated by a belief that there is a ‘right’ sexual orientation, and that a person can, be ‘cured’ if they have a different sexual orientation or gender identity

It’s important to note LGBT people are not a homogenous group. Abuse disclosed by lesbian women may be different to that of bisexual and trans women. Equally, gay men’s experiences may be different to that of bisexual or trans men.

 LGBT people experience distinct personal and structural barriers in accessing help and reporting abuse. This may include services lacking quality referral pathways with LGBT specialist sector and low visibility and representation of LGBT issues within services. It can also include lack of understanding and awareness by professionals around unique forms of coercive control targeted at sexual orientation or gender identity, and professionals minimising the risk experienced by LGBT people.

For more information please see http://www.galop.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/Domestic-Violence-and-Abuse-and-the-LGBT-communities.pdf

Teenage realtionship abuse 

8.20.7

Young people can experience domestic abuse in their relationships, regardless of whether they are living together. The latest figures from the CSEW show that women aged 16 to 19 years were more likely to be victims of any domestic abuse in the last year than women aged 25 years or over. Similarly, men aged between 16 to 19 were most likely to experience domestic abuse than at any other age. It should be noted that if a young person is under 16 years old, the definition of domestic abuse under the 2021 Act will not apply to them, instead this abuse would be considered as child abuse. Victims under 16 would be treated as victims of child abuse and age appropriate consequences will be considered for perpetrators under 16.

It is important to recognise that young people may not identify as victims of domestic abuse – or with the term ‘domestic abuse’. Teenage relationship abuse often occurs outside of a domestic setting, and victims may feel that domestic abuse occurs only between adults who are cohabiting or married. Research by SafeLives shows that the most common words that young people associated with abusive relationships were toxic (69%), controlling (61%) and manipulative (55%). The least common were coercive (24%), intimate partner violence (31%) and domestic violence (36%). Teenage victims may also find it difficult to view their abuse as abuse – for instance, controlling or jealous behaviour may be interpreted as love. Practitioners should consider this when dealing with incidents of teenage relationship abuse.

https://www.disrespectnobody.co.uk/

 https://www.womensaid.org.uk/womens-aid-launches-loverespect-website-for-teenage-girls-at-risk-of-relationship-abuse/

Children aged 15 and under are not defined as victims of domestic abuse within their own relationships, although support may be required; usual child safeguarding procedures should be applied.

Women and girls

8.20.8

Women and girls are disproportionately impacted by domestic violence and abuse but it is important to acknowledge that there are female perpetrators and male victims and that domestic violence and abuse also occurs within same sex relationships.

Recognition

8.20.9

The impact on children of experiencing domestic abuse and violence may be physical, emotional and psychological, social and behavioural and cognitive.

8.20.10

The risk to children and young people include:

  • direct physical and sexual abuse
  • being used as part of the abuse of the victim e.g. having to spy on the victim or being forced to humiliate or abuse the victim themselves
  • emotional abuse and potential physical injury from experiencing the effects of domestic abuse on the victim

  The impact can include:

  • disrupted attachment relationships;
  • long term relationship issues;
  • physical and mental ill health;
  • educational challenges and lack of achievement;
  • social isolation;
  • disrupted home life (multiple moves of home)
  • trauma;
  • difficulties with emotional regulation;
  • low self-esteem.
8.20.11

Research suggests that children who experience domestic abuse are also at greater risk of experiencing neglect and other abusive behaviours.  Children may continue to experience the effects of domestic abuse and coercive control even if the abusive parent or carer is no longer in the home, for example via contact arrangements.

8.20.12

Children and young people are therefore direct victims of domestic abuse and this has been recognised within the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 which now includes children who see, hear or experience the effects of domestic abuse (and are connected to the victim and /or perpetrator) as victims of domestic abuse in their own right.

8.20.13

All agency assessments should be alert to the possibility of domestic abuse within a child’s family and embed practices and procedures to identify:

  • whether domestic abuse and violence is taking place;
  • the effect on the non-abusing parent, children and other family members;
  • appropriate measures to safeguard the non-abusing parent, children and other family members.
  • Local policies and procedures will contain specific details of assessment and responses which will also include:
  • use of DASH Risk Assessment
  • referral to MARAC
  • other safety planning and safeguarding actions.
8.20.14

A MARAC is a multi-agency meeting, which has the safety of high risk victims of domestic violence and abuse as its focus. The MARAC is a process involving the participation of all the key statutory and voluntary agencies who might be involved in supporting victims of domestic violence and abuse. The objective of the MARAC is to share information and establish a simple multi-agency action plan to support the victim and make links with other public protection procedures, particularly safeguarding children, vulnerable adults and the management of offenders. The MARAC meeting is a part of a wider process, which hinges on the early involvement and support most frequently in the form of an Independent Domestic Violence Advisor (IDVA) and continued specialist case management, both before and after the meeting. The MARAC should combine the best of both specialist supports, together with the co-ordination of generic agencies whose resources and involvement will be needed to keep victims and their children safe.

Clare’s Law – The Domestic Abuse Disclosure Scheme

8.20.15

There are two functions - a right to ask and a right to know. The right to ask allows someone to ask the police about a partner’s history in relation to domestic abuse or violent acts, and under the right to know, the police can proactively disclose information in particular circumstances. Consideration should therefore be given to whether there is available, relevant information regarding the perpetrator that could assist the victim with making safer plans and decisions. The decision to disclose can be made within the MARAC plan.   The Domestic Abuse Act 2021  places the guidance for the Domestic Abuse Disclosure Scheme a statutory footing. Placing a statutory duty on the police to have regard to the guidance, which means they must have a good, clear reason to depart from it, will help raise awareness of the scheme, increase the number of disclosures made to prevent harm and ensure that the scheme is used and applied consistently across all police forces - Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme factsheet

Response

8.20.16

Police and health practitioners are often the first point of contact and they (or any other agency that becomes aware of domestic violence and abuse) should take steps to safeguard the safety of the victim, any other adult members of the household and:

  • Identify whether there are any children living in the household or whether anybody in the household is pregnant;
  • Make an initial analysis of the impact on the children of their experience of the domestic abuse and violence, including physical violence, emotional abuse and coercive control;
  • This should include children who are absent at the time of the abusive incident(s), as well as those children who have directly experienced the incident(s);
  • It should never be assumed that if children, including babies and infants are reported or seen to be asleep, in another room or absent during a domestically abusive incident that there is no impact upon the child. The children will be aware of all facets of the domestic abuse and violence and will be experiencing the full impact upon themselves and upon their family.
  • where it is safe to do so, provide victims/non-abusing parent with information on local support services and safe accommodation such as refuges, taking into account any specific safety issues and relevant ethnic and cultural issues (information available from local domestic abuse and violence forums).
  • consider immediate safety planning e.g. refuge accommodation, staying with friends and family, Domestic Violence Protection Notices (DVPNs)  and Domestic Violence Protection Orders (DVPOs)  
  • be clear during interactions with victims and potential perpetrators that the violence and abuse remains the responsibility of the potential perpetrator and not the victim.
8.20.17

A DVPN is an emergency non-molestation and eviction notice which can be issued by the police, when attending to a domestic abuse incident, to a perpetrator. As the DVPN is a police-issued notice, it is effective from the time of issue, thereby giving the victim immediate safeguarding from further harm. A Domestic Violence Protection Order (DVPO) can be requested by the police, a victim or specified third parties. If a DVPO is granted, a perpetrator can be banned with immediate effect from returning to a residence and from having contact with the victim for up to 28 days, allowing the victim time to consider their options and find the support they need. 

Please see pages 102 - 108  A full summary table of protective orders for victims of domestic abuse

8.20.18

The police will notify Children’s Services whenever they become aware of incidents of domestic violence and abuse where there are children in the household, including as much information and detail as possible about the family and the incident of domestic violence and abuse. Any other professional or agency who are aware of incidents of domestic violence and abuse where there are children in the household must also inform Children’s Services, using local referral mechanisms.

8.20.19

On notification of an incident of DVA where there are children in the household and /or family, Children Services will consult existing records and consider what information is already held, in order to make decisions about whether further action is necessary. The outcome of this decision making may include:

  • not taking any further action at this time;
  • carrying out an assessment, which may involve contacting parents and other appropriate agencies for information and analysis of risk;
  • if a child/ren has experienced or is at risk of experiencing significant harm as a result of domestic violence and abuse, a section 47 Children Act enquiry must be instigated.
8.20.20

All appropriate agencies involved with the family and children should be informed of any relevant information relating to domestic violence and abuse incidents and Children Services’ decisions and actions. This is to ensure that necessary and proportionate information is shared in order to safeguard children, victims of domestic abuse and violence and any other vulnerable individuals.

Assessment

8.20.21

Careful consideration must be given to the potential impact on the safety of victims and children in any communications and interactions with the family (including the alleged perpetrator) where there has been alleged domestic abuse and violence. This extends to letters, telephone calls, texts and face to face meetings. It is important to create a safe environment in order to protect victims and children and enable the gathering of information.

8.20.22

Many victims of domestic violence and abuse may not be aware that they are experiencing abusive behaviours, may feel shame, guilt and fear of the repercussions, have limited options available to them and have a justifiable fear of the consequences of disclosure.  All these issues may be relevant to the victim’s engagement with assessment of risk to themselves and their children.

8.20.23

Relevant areas of initial assessments for the non-abusive parents may include:    

  • Any details the non-abusing parent has about the violence, abuse, threats and coercive control
  • How the parenting capacity of the non-abusive parent has been affected by the domestic abuse, e.g. impact on non-abusing parent’s confidence and self-esteem, ability to be consistently responsive to child’s needs for play, stimulation and warmth, impact on family routines of living with abuse
  • The non-abusing parent understanding of the children’s experience of the abuse
  • Safety planning, including safety arrangements post-separation if relevant
  • The impact of any problematic use of substances
  • Any mental of physical ill health
  • Making the non-abusive parent aware of legal advice and options, including relevant legal protection
  • Awareness of time of increased risk e.g. pregnancy, leaving the relationship, and safety planning around this.
  • Any support the child is likely to need to help recover from experiences of domestic abuse
  • Protective/change factors and recognition of what the non-abusing parent has already been doing to keep the child safe
  • Wider systemic issues which may be affecting the family such as low income, inadequate housing, lack of family resources
  • Tools such as genograms, timelines and questions to gather more detail about a relationship may be useful.
  • Obtaining the parents’ consent to seek information from other agencies e.g. school, GP, Mental Health, Probation to inform the assessment.
8.20.24

Wherever possible, the alleged perpetrator should also be assessed in order to:

  • establish whether the alleged perpetrator acknowledges all or any abusive behaviours and is able to recognise the potential impact on the victim and children
  • if there is any acknowledgement, the alleged perpetrator’s motivation to work with services, to co-operate with assessments and to change behaviours
  • whether the alleged perpetrator minimises his/her abusive behaviours, shifts responsibility for them or denies any domestic abuse
  • whether the alleged perpetrator will accept and co-operate with safety planning for all members of the family, including themselves.
  • throughout all interactions with the alleged perpetrator, there must be consideration given to the safety of the victim and children, especially if the alleged perpetrator is still living with the victim and children.  If a Child Protection Conference is held, consideration should be given to how to safely involve the person perpetrating the abuse, including whether to hold a ‘split’ conference. Particular consideration will be given to the safety of the victim and children
8.20.25

If appropriate, the views and experiences of the children should be explored and an assessment of their lived experiences obtained. It should be borne in mind that children may not have an understanding of what they have undergone and so not be able to articulate their experiences. Children may also have a fear of the consequences of disclosure to themselves and to the victims of domestic abuse.  Key messages for children who have experienced domestic abuse are:

  • It was not their fault
  • It is not their role to sort out the situations
  • They can talk to a trusted adult about anything.
8.20.26

Depending on age and circumstances, it may be appropriate to develop specific safety plans with children and young people and as a minimum, to help them identify who and how they would talk to if they felt afraid or needed help.

Impact on children and young people

8.20.27

Experience of domestic abuse is a traumatic event in a child’s life. Childhood Trauma and the Brain | UKTC (uktraumacouncil.org) The impact on individual children will depend on their age, temperament, additional experience of trauma and any other factors which may be affecting them. Some children will have developed coping strategies which may or may not be maladaptive.

8.20.28

Research has confirmed that children of all ages experience all forms of domestic abuse (not just physical abuse but the effects of emotional abuse and coercive control) themselves, whether or not they have been directly involved in abusive incidents. Children may also experience the impact of domestic abuse on the parenting they receive, including how both the victim and the perpetrator are affected as parents and attachment figures. Attachment and child development | NSPCC Learning.  

8.20.29

Babies and young children are especially vulnerable when experiencing domestic abuse due to their complete reliance on their carers to meet their needs, their inability to verbalise, inability to remove themselves from any danger and lack of regular outside professional contact.

8.20.30

Young people with disabilities are also vulnerable.

8.20.31

Potential short- term impacts may include:

  • hyper vigilance (sensitivity to environment, alert to potential dangers which may be perceived rather than actual)
  • hyper-arousal  (nervous, easily startled, anxious, agitated)
  • withdrawal (quiet, shut down, not involved with other people, daily life). Children exhibiting this response to domestic abuse and violence may be overlooked as they are not  showing challenging behaviours or drawing attention to themselves.
  • difficulty going to sleep or staying asleep, bed wetting
  • physical symptoms such as stomach aches,
  • problems with regulating emotions (exaggerated response to events)
  • aggressive behaviour (which can be a response to a trigger reminder of domestic abuse)
  • self-harming
8.20.32

Longer term impacts may include:

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • poor academic performance
  • self destructive behaviours
  • chronic physical, emotional and mental ill health
  • problematic use of substances
  • low self esteem
  • difficulties in family and other relationships
  • risky and impulsive behaviours, including criminal activity
8.20.33

Potential reactions to domestic abuse and violence by age:

In utero

  • Excessive exposure to cortisol (the stress hormone)
  • Physical injury – “suspect” attempting to cause death to the unborn child/ren. Punching, Kicking, or possibility of poisoning mother to bring on birth early.

 Birth to 5 years old

  • Inconsolable crying
  • Excessive sleeping
  • Disrupted eating and sleeping patterns
  • Intense separation anxiety or, by contrast, no reaction to separation
  • Regression in terms of developmental development
  • Lack of responsiveness
  • Language delay
  • Resistance to being held or, by contrast, needing to be held more
  • Aggressive or impulsive behaviour which presents as beyond developmental parameters (e.g. toddler tantrums)

6-11 years old

  • Disrupted sleep, nightmares
  • Attention and concentration difficulties
  • Problems with peer friendships
  • Aggressive behaviours
  • Withdrawal, lack of interest, anxiety
  • Self-blame
  • Emotional dysregulation
  • School refusal or truancy
  • Physical symptoms

 12-18 years old

  • Poor school attendance, lack of qualifications
  • Impulsive and reckless behaviour e.g. truancy, criminal activity, sexual activity, pregnancy, substance use, running away
  • Entering into abusive relationships (as a victim or a young instigator of abusive behaviour)
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Withdrawal from activities and friendships
  • Self-harming
  • Anti-social behaviour
  • Abusive behaviours to family
  • Consider contextual safeguarding as a related risk within this context - Assessment of risk outside the home (contextual safeguarding)
8.20.34

Some of the behaviours within this age group maybe connected to their stage of development. Changes in the adolescent brain connected to perceptions around risk taking, empathy and the emerging sense of individual identity may have an impact on the identification of potential responses to domestic violence and abuse.

8.20.35

Not all children and young people will display all of the potential reactions and impacts of domestic abuse set out above. Children will have individual strengths, personal, familial and  social characteristics that may contribute to resilience. Individual assessment will help identify those factors that can be built upon to support recovery and resilience. Boingboing co-produced resilience research and practice - Boingboing


lscb-logo 01273 481544
wsscb-logo 0330 222 5296
bhlscb-logo 01273 292379

This page is correct as printed on Tuesday 30th of November 2021 06:33:55 PM please refer back to this website (http://sussexchildprotection.procedures.org.uk) for updates.
Close