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Children and young people are affected by domestic abuse whether or not they witness every incident of violence and abusive behaviour or it is directly perpetrated against them.
In 90% of cases of domestic violence, the children or young people are in the same or next room as where the violence is taking place (Hughes, 1992). There is also a higher risk that some children and young people will be physically or sexually abused as well.
At least 750,000 children a year witness domestic abuse. Nearly three-quarters of children on the 'at risk' register live in households where domestic abuse occurs (Department of Health, 2002).
Children and young people experience domestic abuse in many different ways. For example, they may get caught in the middle of an incident in an effort to make the violence stop. They may be in the room next door and hear the abuse or see their mother's physical injuries following an incident of violence. They may be forced to stay in one room or may not be allowed to play. They may be forced to witness sexual or physical abuse or be forced or manipulated into using violent or abusive behaviours against their non-abusive parent or carer, or others.
All children and young people impacted by domestic abuse are being emotionally abused. Understandably, children and young people who have experienced domestic abuse will feel many different emotions. Each child or young person will deal with their emotions differently.
If you are working with a child or young person who has been living with domestic abuse let them know it’s ok to talk to someone about what they've seen, what their worries are and what's happening to them or someone else.
It's normal that they may withdraw, feel upset, angry or confused. However, you can support them in expressing these feelings more positively, in ways that are not abusive or damaging to themselves or those around them.