When we think about domestic abuse, or someone talking about domestic abuse – immediately we think it is between partners. We don’t usually take the time to think about the effects of this on any children overhearing or witnessing it. As a family solicitor this is a subject very close to my heart. I’ve looked into this recently and have come across transcripts and data which is shocking.
I was saddened to read about the calls to the NSPCC about children living in violent homes, rising by over 50 % during the COVID pandemic. It’s made me wonder how these children may have felt invisible to a helping hand before lockdown. I’ve wondered why not more has been done to prevent this rise? I suppose, the silver lining of lockdown has enabled those “nosey neighbours” to recognise the mistreatment of their friends next door.
The NSPCC has reported that calls that they have received since the first lockdown have soared. They’ve added in some data for context, that there are over 30 contacts a day from adults worried about children living with domestic abuse. Even if some concerns didn’t amount to much, of course it is worth raising the possibility that something a little more sinister is happening. You will see below an example of a neighbour who called about their concern.
“For the past few weeks, I’ve been hearing loud and aggressive shouting between a man and woman who live a few doors away from me. They’re at it pretty much every day and it generally lasts a couple of hours. Sometimes I hear their children crying when the parents are arguing. I’ve only really noticed this since I’ve been at home on furlough. I’m worried the kids aren’t being looked after properly.”
A concerned neighbour calling the NSPCC helpline
I urge any neighbours or friends/family who do have a concern about their friends/a child’s welfare, to contact NSPCC or even the police. I’ve provided some contacts below on how domestic abuse can be reported for those facing violence, however if you are a neighbour/friend it is important your concern is reported. This can be done anonymously to the NSPCC. No child should go through life in a violent home feeling alone and isolated. The consequences of domestic abuse and its long-term effects on children can be devastating and as a community, we have a duty to help/protect those around us. It is somewhat rare that a child has the courage to pick up the phone themselves and call the NSPCC and so I urge the public to be more conscious and give a helping hand. Below is a child who called about their concern.
“Recently my mum has been yelling at me and calling me names for no apparent reason. My parents fight a lot, like really a lot. My dad overreacts but mum makes the situation worse. Today my parents got in a huge argument that included a lot of shouting and my dad was throwing things at my mum. I was shocked because none of their fights have got physical before, and now I am wondering how bad things could get. My parents don’t talk anymore and they treat me like their little messenger passing comments between them. It is really affecting me as I constantly feel anxious and cry myself to sleep. I really need help.”
A 13-year-old caller to Childline
Thankfully, as I’ve mentioned before in a previous post, the new domestic abuse bill should pass royal assent soon and be in effect. This new bill provides for the definition of domestic abuse, to include children as victims in their own right. The NSPCC have been campaigning for this for many years, alongside other charities and so this is a big stepping stone. However, upon reading this news, it feels bitter sweet as seeing the spike in reported abuse makes me feel that more needs to be done. A suggestion by NSPCC is calling on the government to make a further amendment to fund community-based services for children, run by local agencies.
With this in mind, I have reviewed some other parts of the new domestic abuse bill and it has included the government:
(A) to place a duty on local authorities to give support to victims of domestic abuse and their children in refuges and safe accommodation and
(B) to require local authorities to grant new secure tenancies to social tenants leaving existing secure tenancies for reasons connected with domestic abuse.
If you would like some more information on what that means, please let me know.
With as many as one in five children affected by domestic abuse, we need to come together and make a change. We need to be more proactive in checking in with our neighbours/friends. Though we must keep a social distance, there is no harm in knocking next door now and again to check in (from 2 metres and wearing masks). Please remember here that if you are a victim of domestic abuse, you are an exception to the rules regarding where you can reside. You are able to stay with a friend and you are able to leave the home to refuge. If you would like more information on that please contact me or one of the institutions I have listed below.
Please forward this post on as it may help someone in need. If you would like a better idea on spotting signs of abuse please visit – https://www.nspcc.org.uk/what-is-child-abuse/spotting-signs-child-abuse/
- Women for Refugee Women, have provided a new source of contact for support – this will now be via email, telephone, text on online. I encourage you to act fast and make your compromised safety at home known.
- The National Domestic Abuse Helpline provides an online forum to support victims in this extreme time of need. People who are friends or family of a victim and are also anxious/concerned, can contact the National Domestic Abuse Helpline for reassurance of their encouraging protection. 0808 2000 247, which is open 24/7 365 days per year, or via their website.
- Chayn is another platform that will provide an online chat – to encourage victims of domestic abuse to discuss their depression and anxiety of going into self-isolation. You can also use this platform to discuss financial anxieties and concerns.
- In Scotland, contact Scotland’s 24 hour Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline: 0800 027 1234.
- In Northern Ireland, contact the 24 hour Domestic & Sexual Violence Helpline: 0808 802 1414.
- In Wales, contact the 24 hour Life Fear Free Helpline on 0808 80 10 800
- National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline: 0800 999 5428
- Men’s Advice Line: 0808 801 0327
- Respect helpline (for anyone worried about their own behaviour): 0808 802 0321.
- Call the emergency services or text instead
Firstly you will need to register, so you would text “Register” to 999. You will receive a reply and need to follow the instructions sent to you.