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How could my behaviour/actions affect children around me?

If you are around children they will most probably be affected in some way by your abusive behaviour. This page provides the following information:

How does my behaviour affect my children?

Children learn from their environments and / or their parents.Because of their experiences, they can grow up thinking that a certain situation (e.g. domestic violence and abuse) is normal.

Normalising such behaviour for children is dangerous, as they may take their experiences with them through to adult life.

Young people experiencing domestic abuse (either directly or indirectly) can become withdrawn, violent, and lose confidence in themselves.The experiences can also have a significant emotional impact on them. The Royal College of Psychiatrists states that children or young people might:

  • become anxious or depressed
  • have difficulty sleeping
  • have nightmares or flashbacks
  • be easily startled
  • complain of physical symptoms such as tummy aches
  • start to wet their bed
  • have temper tantrums
  • behave as though they are much younger than they are
  • have problems with school
  • become aggressive or they may internalise their distress and withdraw from other people
  • have a lowered sense of self-worth
  • begin to play truant or start to use alcohol or drugs
  • begin to self-harm by taking overdoses or cutting themselves
  • have an eating disorder

Children may also feel angry, guilty, insecure, alone, frightened, powerless or confused.

Lisa (15 years)“…that’s what I always do – I lie awake at night. I still do. I make myself be awake so that I can jump up when it happens and get between them…it’s important that I don’t go to sleep for my mum’s sake…I have to help my mum…otherwise he might hurt her really badly”.

In what ways can children witness domestic abuse?

Children can 'witness' domestic violence in a many different ways. They may be:

  • Caught in the middle of an incident as they want to try and stop it
  • In the room next door and hear the abuse or see anyresulting injuries
  • Needed to help the victim tend to any injuries
  • Forced to stay in one room or may not be allowed to play.
  • Forced to witness sexual abuse
  • Forced to take part in verbally abusing the victim

Remember - childrenareat risk of harm if they are attempting to protect one of their parents from the other.

The risks of harm to children exposed to domestic abuse have now been recognised. An amendment to the definition of harm in the Children Act 1989 now includes ‘impairment suffered from seeing or hearing the ill treatment of another’ (Adoption and Children Act, 2002).

This reflects that young people living with domestic abuse are over-represented among those referred to statutory children and families teams with concerns about child abuse and neglect. It also represents the fact that they can account for around two thirds of cases seen at child protection conferences.

What help is available for my children?

There are a number of different forms of help available for your children, ranging from direct support to counselling services.

Children are vulnerable and as such, a priority for all of us. As long as parents have the interests and safety of their children asa priority - Social Services can help in many ways.

Children and Young People Services (CYPS), formally known as Social Services, and numerous support agencies can help children deal with the issues raised by living within an abusive household. If the police have become involved they will work with Social Services when there is a significant concern that a child may be affected by domestic abuse.

Specialist Children and Young People Service

Support is provided to children and young people referred via our adult Outreach, MARAC and REPAIR support workers. The support is provided with consent, is confidential and given by qualified, experienced specialist workers.

Area in Devon Agency name Contact details
East, Exeter & Mid Devon Stop Abuse for Everyone www.exeterwomensaid.org.uk
North Devon & Torridge North Devon Women’s Aid 01271 370079
South Hams, Teignbridge, West Devon Domestic Violence & Abuse Service, South & West www.domesticviolenceandabuseservice.org.uk

The SAFE project (14 – 25 year olds)

The Safe project is an outreach project for girls/boys/young people aged 14 – 25 years run by Exeter Women’s Aid; North Devon Women’s Aid and Domestic Violence and Abuse Service, South and West Devon. The projects offer advocacy, one-to-one support, phone support and pattern changing courses for girls/young women who are witnessing domestic violence between adults or who have an abusive partner themselves.

Area in Devon Agency name Contact details
Exeter Stop Abuse for Everyone www.exeterwomensaid.org.uk/safeproject
East & Mid Devon Stop Abuse for Everyone www.exeterwomensaid.org.uk/safeproject
North Devon & Torridge North Devon Women’s Aid 01271 370079
South Hams, Teignbridge, West Devon Domestic Violence & Abuse Service, South & West www.domesticviolenceandabuseservice.org.uk


If the father is the abuser, and is on one of Devon’s REPAIR programmes, his children are able to access specialist support from a children and young people’s worker.

  • Childline (for children/young people in distress) 0800 11 11
  • NSPCC 0808 800 5000

The Hideout

This is a domestic violence website designed especially for children and young people. The website informs you about domestic violence, helps to identify what is happening at home, and directs you towards additional support and information. There are interactive checklists, quizzes and games to help you think through problems that surround domestic violence and abuse. The website also ensures the site can be accessed safely with a ‘Hide my Visit’ button, and contains a downloadable safety plan.

Will my children be taken away from me?

It is only the cases where there is a significant risk to the safety or well being of a child that any action regarding a decision to remove a child is considered.

If you continue to be abusive you stand to risk losing access to your children. This could happen in a number of ways:

  • The victim seeks a Non-Molestation Order through the civil courts which could prevent you from being in contact with your child/ren
  • Your child/ren, could request leave from the court to apply for their own Non-Molestation Order to prevent you having contact with them
  • The court could makean emergency protection order or interim care order for a child which can exclude a person who poses a risk to the child from having contact with them

Decisions regarding children are made by a group of professionals based on many aspects of risk and parents are invited to be involvedin this decision making process.

In general any involvement by CYPS or Devon and Cornwall Police is based on the bestinterests of the children involved, and as long as parents put the interests and safety of their children as a priority, then the professional group will help you to reduce any risk and support you all through this difficult period.