15.3 Safeguarding Children impacted by Domestic Abuse
Date of last review October 2021
Date of next review October 2023
- Definition(Jump to)
- Recognition(Jump to)
- Clare’s Law – The Domestic Abuse Disclosure Scheme(Jump to)
- Response(Jump to)
- Assessment(Jump to)
- Impact on children and young people(Jump to)
- Reducing Parental Conflict programme and resources(Jump to)
- Trauma-informed approach(Jump to)
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:
*‘Economic abuse’ means any behaviour that has a substantial adverse effect on B’s ability to:
Examples of economic abuse might include the following, where they have a substantial adverse effect on the victim:
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.
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.
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
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:
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 LGBTQ+.
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
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:
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
There are many similarities between heterosexual and LGBTQ+ people’s experiences of domestic abuse. However, LGBTQ+ 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:
It’s important to note LGBTQ+ 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.
LGBTQ+. people experience distinct personal and structural barriers in accessing help and reporting abuse. This may include services lacking quality referral pathways with LGBTQ+ specialist sector and low visibility and representation of LGBTQ+ 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 LGBTQ+. 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
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.
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
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.
The impact on children of experiencing domestic abuse and violence may be physical, emotional and psychological, social and behavioural and cognitive.
The risk to children and young people include:
The impact can include:
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.
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.
All agency assessments should be alert to the possibility of domestic abuse within a child’s family and embed practices and procedures to identify:
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
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
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:
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
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
Relevant areas of initial assessments for the non-abusive parents may include:
Wherever possible, the alleged perpetrator should also be assessed in order to:
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:
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
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.
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.
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.
Young people with disabilities are also vulnerable.
Potential short- term impacts may include:
Longer term impacts may include:
Children and young people of different ages may respond in different ways to domestic abuse, depending on their stage of development.
Potential reactions to domestic abuse and violence by age:
Birth to 5 years old
6-11 years old
12-18 years old
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.
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
Children with special educational needs and disabilities
Children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) may find it difficult to express their feelings or may express them in different ways. Particularly if the child is autistic, has a sensory impairment, a learning disability or has complex or profound difficulties and are, for example, non-verbal. Distress can be presented in different ways, including through challenging behaviour, becoming more withdrawn, difficulties concentrating or other changes to their usual behaviours or ways of communicating.
Professionals must take the individual needs of the child into consideration to support them to communicate in a way they feel comfortable. This may include drawing on multi-agency approaches, working with educational psychologists and drawing on the knowledge of those who know the child best, such as their teacher or any therapists currently involved in their support. It is important that children and young people have the communication tools appropriate to report abuse and engage with professionals trained to aid their communication where needed.
Children of separated parents
For children of separated parents where domestic abuse is a factor, the impact of the abuse may intensify after separation. Therefore, providing support to both children and the non-abusive parent is essential and the child’s voice, their safety and the safety of the non-abusive parent should always be considered. There should be a focus on the importance of joint and parallel work for victims, including children and a range of services to sensitively address and overcome the harm domestic abuse has caused to the non-abusive parent-child relationship. This should also include appropriate access to relevant services for the perpetrator alongside clear accountability that the perpetrator is responsible for the harm caused.
Young people experiencing abuse in their own relationships
Young people can also experience abuse in their own relationships. Experiencing abuse in their own intimate relationships can be hugely damaging for young people and abuse in teenage relationships should be taken just as seriously as in adult relationships.
Reducing Parental Conflict programme and resources
Information and resources for leaders, managers and practitioners helping to reduce the impact of potentially damaging inter-parental conflict on children - Reducing Parental Conflict programme and resources - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
The Children’s Insights England and Wales report shows that a trauma-informed approach, including receiving help from specialist children’s services reduces the impact of domestic abuse on these children and young people and improves their safety and health outcomes. A trauma-informed approach recognises that people who have survived significant childhood adversity may experience a triad of entwined social, physical, and psychological injuries. While these injuries are typically studied independently, they are better understood as interlocking and interdependent, shaping people’s subjective experiences in complex ways across their lifespan. The result can be ‘harm building upon harm’, reducing the ‘shock absorbers’ available to cope at times of stress