What is domestic abuse

Domestic violence and abuse can affect women and men from a range of different backgrounds.

We also know that many children live in homes where domestic violence and abuse is happening, and this can affect their health and development.

Victims can experience abuse from partners and/or family members. Abusers may use tactics such as threats and bullying to control and isolate them.

There are many different types of abuse, including:

Physical abuse: Biting, kicking, punching, pushing and pulling hair

Emotional abuse: Verbal threats, shouting, name calling, stalking and harassment

Sexual abuse: Unwanted sexual attention e.g. touching you in public, demanding sex when you have said ‘no’, hurting you during sex

Financial abuse: Not allowing you to access your own money, making you ask for money to buy essential items such as nappies for children and sanitary products for yourself.


Sometimes people don’t realise that they are a victim of domestic violence and abuse, and recognising the signs is not always easy. However, asking yourself if you feel afraid of your partner or a member of your family is a good starting point. It is important to remember that you are not to blame, you are not alone and that help is available.


Although it may appear we are focusing on domestic violence and abuse from male to female, abusers maybe male or female, any class, religion, ethnicity, occupation, age or in any relationship, including same sex. The effects on children are the same regardless of who the perpetrator is.


1 in 4 women are victims of domestic violence and abuse. 1 in 6-7 victims of domestic violence and abuse are male. Men are also three times more likely to not talk about the abuse they are suffering.

How does domestic violence impact my child?

Witnessing domestic abuse is child abuse

In a home where there is domestic violence of any kind, children witness about three-quarters of the abusive incidents.

About half the children in such families have themselves been badly hit or beaten.

All children will be affected by domestic violence and abuse, even when they are in the womb.

How can children express themselves if they have witnessed domestic violence?

Children dealing with domestic violence and abuse often do badly at school. Their experiences at home make it difficult to concentrate in school, and if they are worried about their abused parent, they may refuse to go to school.

Young children

  • anxious
  • complain of tummy-aches
  • Start to wet their bed
  • difficulty in sleeping
  • temper tantrums
  • behave much younger than they are
  • difficulty in separating from their abused parent when they start nursery or school.
  • Aggressive towards other children

Older boys

Boys seem to express their distress much more outwardly and may,

  • become aggressive
  • disobedient
  • use violence to solve problems
  • copy the behaviour they have witnessed
  • play truant
  • start to use alcohol or drugs

Older girls

Girls are more likely to keep their distress inside may;

  • withdraw from others
  • be anxious or depressed
  • complain of vague physical symptoms
  • have an eating disorder
  • self-harm by taking overdoses or cutting themselves
  • choose an abusive partner themselves.

Are there any long term effects?

Children are more likely to become involved in a violent and abusive relationship themselves.

Children tend to copy the behaviour of their parents:

  • Boys can learn from their fathers to be violent to women.
  • Girls can learn from their mothers that violence is to be expected, and something you just have to put up with.

However, children don’t always repeat the same pattern when they grow up. Many children don’t like what they see, and try very hard not to make the same mistakes as their parents.

Children are better able to cope and recover when they get the right help and support.

Information from the © Royal College of Psychiatrists March 2017 https://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/healthadvice/parentsandyouthinfo/parentscarers/domesticviolence.aspx

Who can help you?

Other organisations that can help include:

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