Domestic abuse is not limited to physical violence and can include a range of abusive behaviours. It can also be experienced as repeated patterns of abusive behaviour to maintain power and control in a relationship. The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 defines domestic abuse as any incident or pattern of incidents between those aged 16 years or over who:
- are a partner
- are an ex-partner
- are a relative
- have, or there has been a time when they each have had, a parental relationship in relation to the same child
The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 recognises children under the age of 18 years who see, or hear, or experience the effects of the abuse, as a victim of domestic abuse if they are related or have a parental relationship to the adult victim or perpetrator of the abuse.
The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 outlines the following behaviours as abuse:
- physical or sexual abuse
- violent or threatening behaviour
- controlling or coercive behaviour
- economic abuse
- psychological, emotional, or other abuse
How does domestic abuse affect children?
Domestic abuse teaches children negative things about relationships and how to deal with people. For instance:
- It can teach them that violence is an acceptable way to resolve conflict.
- They learn how to keep secrets.
- They learn to mistrust those close to them and that children are responsible and to blame for violence, especially if violence erupts after an argument about them.
- It can impact negatively on the intimate relationships they develop in early and later life.
Children are affected in many ways by abuse, even after a short time. These effects include:
- feeling frightened,
- becoming withdrawn,
- running away,
- behavioural difficulties,
- problems with school,
- poor concentration, and
- emotional turmoil.
The longer children are exposed to abuse, the more severe the effects on them are.
Children suffering abuse from a girlfriend/boyfriend
In March 2015, the Crime Survey for England and Wales identified that 6.6% of men and 12.6% of women aged 16 to 19 had experienced domestic abuse in the past year. For women this is dramatically higher (42%) than the next highest category (ages 20 – 24), and for men it is almost one third higher (32%).The SafeLives report, Safe Young Lives: Young People and Domestic Abuse state that abuse can begin even earlier than age 16 for large numbers of young people. A survey of 13- to 17-year-olds found that a quarter (25%) of girls and 18% of boys reported having experienced some form of physical violence from an intimate partner.
SafeLives date shows that young people, including those below 16, can experience all forms of domestic abuse and the likelihood of experiencing high severity abuse is no different to adults. The data suggests the levels of high severity abuse may be highest for the youngest age group.
Since 2013-, 16- and 17-year-olds have been entitled to access adult domestic abuse support as a result of their inclusion in the cross-governmental definition of domestic abuse. Despite the high prevalence of abuse for this age group, the rate of referrals into support services and multi-agency risk assessment conferences (MARACs) is lower than the percentage they make up of the population. Young people aged 16 and 17 represent 3.1% of the adult (16+) population, while 1.7% of MARAC referrals, 2% of referrals into IDVA support and 1% of referrals into Outreach support are made for those aged 16 and 17 years old. For victims younger than 16, who must rely on limited specialist services for young people, the visibility of victims is likely to be even lower.
Help and advice
If you are concerned that a child you know is at risk or been subject to any form of domestic abuse see the Report a Concern page on what to do.
Please refer to the HIPS procedure Domestic Violence and Abuse and the Family Approach Protocol and Toolkit for more information and guidance.
Educational professionals can also refer to the Hampshire Domestic Abuse Partnership (HDAP) Domestic Abuse Guidance for Schools, Pre-Schools and Colleges.
Domestic Abuse Bill: factsheets provide more information about each of the provisions in the act.
Hampshire Domestic Abuse Partnership
Hampshire Domestic Abuse Partnership provides local domestic abuse support for victims and survivors of abuse, children living with domestic abuse, perpetrators of domestic abuse and professionals seeking advice.
Advice Line: 03300 165 112
National Domestic Violence Helpline
The Freephone 24 Hour National Domestic Violence Helpline, run in partnership between Women’s Aid and Refuge, is a national service for women experiencing domestic violence, their family, friends, colleagues and others calling on their behalf.
Tel: 0808 2000 247
The Men’s Advice Line
The Men’s Advice Line is for male victims of domestic abuse from a partner or ex-partner (or from other family members). They offer confidential advice, non-judgmental support, practical information and help.
Tel: 0808 801 0327
Confidential and anonymous, the Respect Phoneline is for anyone concerned about their violence and/or abuse towards a partner or ex-partner.
Tel: 0808 802 4040
Rape Crisis Centres provide frontline specialist, independent and confidential services for women and girls who have experienced rape, sexual abuse or sexual assault.
The Rape Crisis website also provides information for partners, family, friends and other people who are supporting a survivor of sexual violence.
Tel: 0808 802 9999
Women’s Aid have created The Hideout to help children and young people understand domestic abuse, and how to take positive action.