Published: 23rd June 2015
Leading domestic violence charity Refuge say that children are the "forgotten victims of domestic violence" and that many of them witness violence in the home, with as many as 1 in 3 women being injured at the hands of their partners by the time they seek professional help.
Refuge, who opened the world's first safe house for women and children in London in 1971, are a national charity and campaigner against domestic violence who provide support to more than 3,000 women and children every day.
New figures released by Refuge reveal that around 32% of women have suffered physical injuries by the time they first contact Refuge, with 75% of them fearing that they would suffer further violence. 50% of them had received death threats to themselves or their children; 39% had suffered the use of weapons and 49% had received some form of strangulation by their partners.
Whilst these statistics are very worrying, the most worrying statistic is that two-thirds of children who witness violence in the home are also physically harmed themselves. There is a high risk of serious injury and even death to 130,000 children living in the UK, with 25% of children living with a high risk of domestic abuse being aged at three years old or under.
It is also estimated that almost 39,000 babies in the UK are at risk, as well as countless others who are harmed before they are even born, due to their mothers suffering from domestic violence.
"Exposure to violence at home jeopardises [a child’s] developmental course in potentially catastrophic ways; it can have profound and long-lasting impacts upon children, affecting almost all aspects of their development, learning, behaviour, relationships and psychological well-being", said Child Psychologist Ruth Aitken.
Chief Executive of Refuge, Sandra Horley CBE thinks it is a "disgrace" that children are treated in such a way, saying, "Surely, given the terrible legacy domestic violence leaves upon their lives, we should be calling for their needs to be centre-stage [in dealing with] this insidious crime?"
"In the 38 years that I have been involved in this field very little has changed and I often wonder how many children will be seriously harmed, witness their mothers killed or lose their own lives before we as a society give them the help and protection they deserve. Surely the time to change is now."
The report highlights the overwhelming need to protect women and children from domestic violence, yet women and children's support services were the first services to be cut under local government reforms to domestic violence services, with around 25% of specialist services having closed down from 2010 to 2014.
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