According to the Office of National Statistics report in 2011/12 there was 2 million victims of domestic violence. 7% of women and 5% of men were estimated to have experienced domestic abuse, equivalent to an estimated 1.2 million female and 800,000 male victims.
However, what about the children who witness their mother or father being involved in domestic violence? The verbal insults, the slap across the face, the put downs. The impact of seeing these actions could have a lasting mental affect on children as they grow into adulthood.
According to Refuge for Women and Children. "The physical, psychological and emotional effects of domestic violence on children can be server and long-lasting." They state that the stress living with abuse can lead to children becoming withdrawn, aggressive and suffer from nightmares or insomnia.
Andrew's Story - "on a daily basis my dad would attack her"
*Andrew was only 2 years old when he first watched his dad attack his mum. He remembers the moment he witnessed his dad throw boiling water at his mum. "It is amazing what I remember. My mum was working 3 jobs keeping food on the table and on a daily basis my dad would attack her, verbally and physically abuse her. My dad never worked so he was taking what my mum was earning."
As Andrew grew up he watched on in fear as his dad attacked his mum with knives and punch her to the floor. Andrew said "back then in the 1960's it was frowned upon to leave your husband. My mum was terrified. It was only when we were much older my mum ran away from my dad. It was only then we could help as adults. As an adult I still suffer from nightmares."
However what we need to remember is that it is not just men who abuse women.
Jane's Story - "he was not allowed to see his family"
*Jane recalls how, at the age of 12 years old, she watched her mother verbally abuse her father. "My mother would call my father thick, stupid and this verbal abuse would also be aimed at me. Mum had control of the finances, gave my father money each week and checked his mobile. He was not allowed to see his family. When he tried, my mum would scream and shout at him and throw him out of the house. My dad learnt not to try again." The abuse in Jane's home did not stop. She remembers studying for her GCSE's and coming home after a day at school and was told to go to a neighbour's house because her mum had attacked her dad with the kitchen knife. Jane came home the next day and her parents were getting on really well again. "It was confusing to see. It is only now in adulthood that I think how confusing it must have been for my father" recalls Jane. The impact of these actions had a lasting affect on Jane and she because withdrawn at school. Jane had relationships and became violent herself towards her boyfriends. "I was angry all the time. My boyfriend could be the nicest person in the world and I would find something wrong with him. I would lash out, call them all the names under the sun. When I was doing this, I also became a self-harmer, that is when I knew I needed to get help."
Amy's Story - "I wanted his approval so did what he wanted"
Another child who grew up in an abusive home was *Amy. Her dad would regularly verbally abuse her mother. Amy remembers been controlled by her father. She wanted to be a nursery nurse and it was only when her dad told her to go for something 'more substantial' she turned away from her dream career. She said "I know hate is a strong word for me, but I do hate him for what he did. I am disappointed that I couldn't do what I wanted to, but at the time I wanted his approval so did what he wanted."
It is easy sometimes to forget the lasting damage the children cope with who witness such violence. They grow up thinking it is normal to be abusive and violent, how are children meant to know any different? However we must remember that domestic violence does exist not just between boyfriend and girlfriends, husbands and wives but also same - sex relationships, mother and child, father and child, family member to family member.
Domestic violence is NEVER ok.
*name changed to protect identity
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