All children witnessing domestic violence are being emotionally abused, and this is recognised in recent legislation, which extends the legal definition of harming children to include harm suffered by seeing or hearing ill treatment of others, especially in the home (Domestic Violence).
Children witness violence and abuse in the home in a number of different ways.
Either way, it is highly likely that they will be affected by the behaviour. They will be present during the aftermath of any incident, and will undoubtedly sense the tension in the build-up to, and after the violence or abuse.
As well as the physical violence often found in abusive relationships, children will almost certainly be affected by frequent emotional abuse of their parent/carer, in the form of name-calling, accusations and threats made by the abuser in their presence or within earshot.
In addition, where behaviour is also directed towards a child, the child's own self-esteem and confidence can be significantly affected by being shouted at, told they are stupid or are not trying hard enough, or given mixed messages by being favoured one moment and put-down the next.
Many parents/carers believe the children were unaware of the domestic violence and abuse and so are not affected. This is incorrect. Even very young children are able to give detailed accounts of incidents which occur within the home. Children who have witnessed or heard domestic violence and abuse can be seriously and significantly harmed by this for long periods of time, and in some cases, affected for their entire life. For adult information and help visit the Hideout adult's pages.
Children may also carry a burden of guilt for not being able to protect their parent/carer or other sibling within their family.
Are you afraid of someone you know or live with?
No one should have to put up with any kind of violence or abuse. Everyone has the right to Feel safe - so if you are worried then ask for help. Unfortunately if domestic violence or abuse has happened once, then it is likely to happen again. Even if it has been happening for years it is never too late to seek help. Visit Women's Aid for the Survivor's Handbook
There are a wide number of charities and organisations who can support victims and children affected by domestic violence and abuse.