Domestic abuse describes any behaviour that involves exerting control over a partner or ex-partner’s life choices and that undermines their personal autonomy. It is an assault on their human rights. Although most victims are women, men can also suffer domestic abuse, and it can also occur in same-sex relationships. Children and young people living with domestic abuse are at increased risk of significant harmboth as a result of witnessing the abuse and being abused themselves. Children can also be affected by abuse even when they are not witnessing it or being subjected to abuse themselves. Domestic abuse can profoundly disrupt a child’s environment, undermining their stability and damaging their physical, mental and emotional health.
The impact of domestic abuse on a child will vary, depending on factors including the frequency, severity and length of exposure to the abuse and the ability of others in the household (particularly the non-abusive parent/carer) to provide parenting support under such adverse conditions. If the non-abusive parent/carer is not safe, it is unlikely that the children will be. Indeed, children frequently come to the attention of practitioners when the severity and length of exposure to abuse has compromised the non-abusing parents/carers ability to nurture and care for them.
The best way to keep both children and non-abusive parents/carers safe is to focus on early identification, assessment and intervention through skilled and attentive staff in universal services. Domestic abuse is widely under-reported to the police. Given the reticence of victims to come forward, it is crucial that staff are aware of the signs of domestic abuse and routinely make appropriate enquiries.
The impact of domestic abuse on a child should be understood as a consequence of the perpetrator choosing to use violence rather than of the non-abusing parents/carers failure to protect. Every effort should be made to work with the non-abusing parent/carer to ensure adequate and appropriate support and protection is in place to enable them to make choices that are safe for both them and the child. The ultimate aim should be to support the non-abusing parent/carer in re-establishing a stable and nurturing home for the child; in the meantime, protecting the child may mean them having to live apart from the non-abusing parent/carer for a time. In such circumstances, staff should work to ensure as much stability and continuity for the child as possible. Agencies should always work to ensure that they are addressing the protection of both the child and the non-abusing parent/carer.
Protection should be ongoing, and should not cease if and when the abuser and the non-abusing parent/carer separate. Indeed, separation may trigger an escalation of violence, increasing the risk to both the child and their non-abusing parent/carer. One area of critical concern is the child’s contact with the perpetrator, which can provide a channel for continuing and even increasing the domestic abuse. Any decisions made in regard to contact by both social work services and/or the civil courts should be based on an assessment of risk to both the child and the non-abusing parent/carer.
Children and young people living with domestic abuse may suffer from stress-related illnesses and conditions, and experience feelings of guilt, shame, anger, fear and helplessness.
Fife Violence Against Women Partnership is an independent partnership that reports to the Community Safety Partnership and Safer Communities Committee. FVAWP develops Fife's strategy in relation to domestic abuse including voluntary and statutory sectors.
Fife Violence Against Women Partnership guidance is for managers and practitioners in both adult and children's services working in all statutory and third sector agencies, services and organisations in Fife.
MARAC (Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conferencing) is a multi-agency process that identifies highest risk domestic abuse victims using a risk assessment tool. Partner agencies then prioritise and co-ordinate services, sharing information at a fortnightly MARAC meeting in order to:
- reduce repeat victimisation;
- help victims feel safer and
- reduce risk, including to any children in contact with either the victim or perpetrator.
MATAC (Multi-agency Agency Tasking And Co-ordinating) is a police led process where through working with partners:
- high tariff perpetrators of domestic abuse are identified;
- information is shared to enhance intelligence and enforcement to improve outcomes for victims and their families.
- actively target domestic abuse perpetrators presenting the greatest risk of harm