The effect and impact of domestic abuse on children is profound even when they are not the direct target of the abuse. In our work with children who have lived with domestic abuse – two out of three children in Sonas services are under the age of 10 – we have found children are left confused, angry, afraid and traumatised by their experiences.
Children can demonstrate some or all of the following:
- Fear/anxiety additional mental health issues
- Hyper vigilance; analysing the environment for threats even at a very young age
- Delayed or restricted development as a result of their experiences, for example, a child may not have been allowed speak or make noise for fear of upsetting the perpetrator or attracting his attention
- Anger/ behavioural issues/ acting out
- Difficulty establishing/ maintaining routines
- Difficulty establishing/ maintaining healthy boundaries
- Attachment bonding issues with non-abusive parent
Parenting in the context of domestic abuse can present almost unimaginable challenges. Sometimes a perpetrator will abuse the mother in front of the child sometimes not caring if the child witnesses the attack and other times as a further deliberate means of abuse. Some perpetrators deliberately abuse children as a further means of abusing the mother or to exert control and dominance over children.
The good news is, with support even in the midst of of hurt and trauma, children regain their childhoods, women regain their confidence as parents and families recover to build resilience.