‘No one told me it was a secret but I knew I was not supposed to tell’

Barnardos has released a new video uncovering six things you might not know about the impact of domestic abuse on children.

‘No one told me it was a secret but I knew I was not supposed to tell’

Children are too often forgotten in situations of domestic abuse and steps must be taken to better protect them, according to a new report also launched by Barnardos today.

The full report can be read here.

Bearing witness to domestic abuse leaves children with deep emotional scars and too often there is nowhere to turn for suitable support, the children’s charity added.

Fergus Finlay, Barnardos’ CEO, said: "It should be obvious that even if children aren’t direct victims, they are indirectly experiencing domestic abuse if it is happening in their home.

"Sadly, every day Barnardos sees the huge impact this has. Living in an abusive environment leaves a massive emotional scar on a child and often results in deep anxiety or aggressive outbursts, never mind the impact on their health, schooling, peer relationships and other developmental aspects. It is, simply, a form of child abuse."

Karen Hughes, Barnardos Project Worker, said: "Children are usually referred to Barnardos because of their behaviour. It is often only after a few sessions we realise the root cause of their distress is their experience of domestic abuse.

"While we do all we can to support families to feel safe in their home, to understand it is not their fault and to rebuild the mother’s confidence in her parenting, we cannot provide all the solutions. An additional problem we face is the lack of therapeutic services available to children and families, which would greatly assist our family support in aiding a child and family’s recovery."

Fergus Finlay, Barnardos’ CEO, said: "We know that without appropriate support there is a huge risk of irreparable damage to the child-parent relationship, and frighteningly, the cycle of abuse continuing. This is because research shows children who grow up experiencing domestic abuse are more likely to become perpetrators or victims in their adult life."

Barnardos sent us the case study below.

Case Study: "I don’t want to be like Dad."

Cormac is a 10 year old boy who was referred to Barnardos because he was anxious and withdrawn in school. Cormac’s parents recently separated but his father still has access to the family home and has visitation access with Cormac and his older brother.

Barnardos started working with Cormac who told them about fights between his parents. He said his Dad shouted a lot and punched his Mam. She wasn’t allowed to have friends or money when his father lived in the house. Cormac told Barnardos: ’"Now that Dad doesn’t live with us anymore he always asks questions about Mam and gets me to give her messages." Cormac worries about upsetting his Dad.

Cormac told us about his last birthday when his father still lived at home. He had a party in a local restaurant. His mother, brother and cousins were there but his father didn’t come. Later his father came to Cormac’s house and said his mother hadn’t told him the right time.

His mother said she must have made a mistake and Cormac’s father pulled her to the ground and kicked her. Cormac said he wished his Mam had got the time right, but he also felt guilty because it was his party that had caused his Mam to get hurt. He was very anxious about his birthday.

When Barnardos started providing support to Cormac’s mother she didn’t recognise her experiences as abuse. She blamed her ex-partners behaviour on herself or minimised it. Her ex-partner continued to be emotionally and verbally abusive since leaving the home, telling her she wasn’t a good parent. She relied on him to discipline the children as they wouldn’t listen to her.

When Cormac got angry he would take his frustrations out on his mother. He worried he’d grow up like his Dad. Barnardos worked with Cormac and his brother on feelings and safety.

Barnardos supported Cormac’s mother come to terms with her experiences and process how she felt. After reading a Barnardos book on domestic abuse she recognised much of her ex-partner’s behaviour. She began to understand her sons had witnessed much of the abuse, even getting in between her and her ex-partner to try and prevent it.

Barnardos referred Cormac’s mother to a specialist domestic violence service but also continued to work with her and her children. Through our Partnership with Parents parenting programme Barnardos enabled Cormac’s mother to build her confidence as a parent, to better communicate with her two boys and to understand their experiences of domestic abuse.

She was very isolated from friends and family and Barnardos supported her to manage the continued controlling and undermining behaviour of her ex-partner. Through the parenting work she understood when Cormac and his brother acted out they were mimicking behaviour and she developed strategies to avoid taking her anger at her sons’ father out on them. She could see it wasn’t their fault, they aren’t like their father.

via BreakingNews.ie

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