I’ve written before about the impact of domestic abuse on children.

Domestic violence scene...

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto/ejwhite

This is a guest post by Paula Le-Milliere. Paula is MAPS co-ordinator for North Somerset Council.
Working with children and young people in schools, myself and my team have a clear list of indicators that flag up to us when there is the possibility that domestic abuse is happening in a household.
Generally speaking, they are very consistent and are usually confirmed later when talking to children about their home situation.

So what are some indicators of possible domestic violence?…

As with any area of work with troubled young people, these indicators are not definitive. They don’t guarantee the existence of DV in the child’s home.
However, experience has taught us to trust these initial signposts and to dig deeper.
When we do, we are often rewarded with responsive children who really need help.

Potential indicators:

  • Poor school attendance – reluctance to leave Mum at home alone, worried about what may happen or Mum may keep one child home at a time to limit the violence
  • Hyper-vigilance – the child or young person responds dramatically to increased noise, shouting, movement from place to place. They are screening for threat constantly.
  • Outbursts of violence – extreme retaliation, lashing out, disproportionate responses to teasing or or joking from other children, over-reactions generally.
  • Controlling behaviour – attempts to control adults and other children which lead to them becoming unpopular and being labelled manipulative
  • Scared of Failure – perfectionism, any attempt to tell them their best is good enough is not believed. Failure often is not an option for these children and young people.
  • Passive aggressive behaviours – defiance, refusal to speak to or look at an adult, etc.
  • Self Harming – from scratching themselves, constantly picking and inflaming to hitting themselves when they fail. This can become more serious self harm as they get older.

These things can alerts us to what may be going on at home and, as we work with parents, gives them the opportunity to disclose.
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Practice implications – supporting Mums…

We are also seeing worrying trends in younger boys who becoming controlling and violent to their mothers long after the perpetrator of the original abuse has gone.
Services often allocate male workers to support such families. Understandably, this is in order to provide a good male role model.
Whilst I don’t disagree with this, I feel it is more important for them to have positive female role models; here’s why:

  • It presents and supports a positive view of women generally
  • It provides a greater degree of empathy for the mothers we work with, increasing the impact of the support offered
  • It balances the child’s view of women as victims with that of someone who care and copes

Final thought…

As we said, this is not an exhaustive list. Nor is it a set of diagnostic criteria.
But it IS a series of indicators that can be helpful in beginning the process of identifying those children and young people who may be living with domestic violence.
The sooner we know who’s struggling, the quicker and more effectively we can offer help.

What do you think?…

  • What other indicators would you add to this list?
  • How can we best proceed with those children we think may be living with DV?

Please let us know your thoughts…   Leave a comment below or click here.

Related previous posts:

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© Jonny Matthew 2014

With gratitude to Paula Le-Milliere for her expertise and for providing the catalyst and most of the content for this post. Thanks Paula!