Domestic abuse affects children too (25 Nov 2015)

Wednesday (25th November) marks the beginning of a national 16 days of action around domestic abuse, including raising awareness of the issue, and encouraging reporting of offences.

West Yorkshire Police is supporting the days of action with its own campaign, focussing on the impact of domestic abuse on children who may witness, or be affected by these offences.

Research has shown that children who suffer or witness domestic abuse may be more likely to become drug users, struggle with their education, suffer health issues, become involved in crime, and that they too may have abusive relationships themselves.

The campaign's focus, is to encourage people to report these often hidden offences, and to seek help from the police and other agencies. A number of videos will be published online, tackling the issues around reporting domestic abuse, dispelling the myths and misconceptions as well as highlighting what  the affects can be for the victims, witnesses and their families. The videos feature child-care expert Dr Brigid Featherstone from Huddersfield University, Gail Faulkner of Leeds Children's Social Care and Sharda Parthasarathi of the NSPCC. The first video is online today, and gives the victim's perspective of domestic abuse.

Assistant Chief Constable Russ Foster said:

"Tackling and reducing domestic abuse continues to be a key priority. Our campaign seeks to remind people that there are many victims within situations of abuse, that can have knock-on effects for years to come.

"Children who grow up in homes where domestic abuse occurs are also victims of that abuse. In the last 12 months we have recorded over 43,000 domestic abuse reports across West Yorkshire. Over 28,000 children lived in the homes where these incidents happened, and 20,000 of these children were present at home during the reported incident.

"We know from research that children who grow up in homes where domestic abuse occurs are more likely to underperform at school and become involved in crime and substance abuse. They may also suffer greater incidences of mental ill health. The consequences can affect their whole life, damaging their adult relationships and the welfare of their own children in years to come.

"Ending domestic abuse is vital, not only for the adults who are victimised but for children as well. By acting now, we can change the future of thousands of children, providing support and providing the opportunity for them to grow up away from the impact of domestic abuse.

"The cycle of domestic abuse can be difficult to break, and where there are often complex relationships, we know people do not often feel comfortable or confident in coming forward to the police. Often people will think that they risk being separated from their children if they report abuse, but perhaps do not think of the wider impact the abuse may actually be having on their children. Seeing or hearing abuse, or experiencing the aftermath of a situation can have a catastrophic effect on children and young people that may not become evident immediately, but may manifest as they mature and have as lasting adverse impact for the duration of their lifetime.

"There are a number of agencies that can support victims and witnesses of abuse, without involving the police. However, I would seek to reassure victims that every report of domestic abuse made to West Yorkshire Police will be attended by a police officer, and actions taken to minimise any risks to the victim and their children.

"We have specially trained officers working across the Force in our specialists safeguarding units who take all reports seriously, deal with them sensitively and do everything possible to safeguard those who are vulnerable.

"Solutions can include Domestic Violence Protection Notices and Orders, which seek to prevent offenders having contact with their victims, even when there may not be enough evidence to provide a realistic prospect of a prosecution, this can buy time for the victims to work together with victim services to  break to cycle of abuse.

"We will make arrests where justified and maximise opportunities to secure evidence in order bring perpetrators to justice. We have had recent success in bringing about victimless prosecutions, where evidence from body-worn cameras and recordings of 999 calls has been used,  where victims for a host of reasons may not wish to engage with the criminal justice process.

"This terrible crime often happens behind closed doors and we are absolutely committed to putting the needs and wishes of the victim at the heart of what we do.  I would urge anyone who is subject to domestic abuse to make contact with us directly or alternatively through other partners or third sector agencies to ensure that you and those around you do not suffer in silence, and that you all receive the necessary support and advice to break the cycle of abuse."

"There is also help available for the perpetrators. It is never too late for the perpetrators of domestic abuse to change their behaviour and improve the lives of people around them. Our website also includes details of agencies that can provide support and advice to perpetrators of such crimes."

West Yorkshire's Police and Crime Commissioner, Mark Burns-Williamson said:

"Domestic violence and abuse is unacceptable behaviour and a crime, tackling it remains a real focus for me and West Yorkshire Police. I welcome and support any work, such as this campaign, that helps raise awareness, empower the victims and educates the offenders. Abuse in the home can have far reaching effects and protecting those most in danger is crucial, investment in body worn camera's for the police is one way of gathering information and evidence to help victims and witnesses who experience these crimes.

"This is a priority in my Police and Crime Plan and here in West Yorkshire I am pleased to work with several partners who focus on helping victims and educating offenders. Working better together is essential to making sure people are safer and feel safer and the establishment of the Help for Victims website www.helpforvictims.co.uk which I launched last year is another way victims can seek the support they need.

"It's vital that victims know that domestic abuse is not their fault and that they do not have to put up with it. I urge any victims to report these incidents - then we can make sure everybody gets the help they need."

There will also be a webchat on domestic abuse with Temporary Chief Constable Dee Collins 7pm-8pm on Wednesday 9 December.

If you have been a victim, or witnessed domestic abuse and do not wish to speak to the police, please call the 24 hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247.

You can report domestic abuse by calling 101 and asking to speak to your local Safeguarding Unit.  If a crime is ongoing, and there is a threat to life always call 999.

You can find information on domestic abuse, including ways to report and support agencies on our website - www.westyorkshire.police.uk/domesticabuse

© Copyright West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner 2018