Domestic violence (also called Domestic Abuse) is a crime and a major social problem affecting many families. In 90% of reported domestic violence incidents, children have either been present in the same or a nearby room.

What is Domestic Violence

The Government, in the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004, defines domestic violence as ‘any incident of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse (psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional) between adults who are, or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexual orientation’. These can mean:
  • Putting the person down or making the victim feel bad about themselves
  • Playing mind-games and making the person feel they are stupid or going mad
  • Enforced isolation from family or friends
  • Trying to keep the person from getting a job
  • Making the person ask for money or withholding money
  • Actual or threatened physical harm
  • Making another person do sexual things against their will
  • Making someone afraid by smashing things and destroying things
  • Making or carrying out threats to hurt someone emotionally – threatening to take the children
  • Run away or commit suicide.

How does it affect children?

  • Domestic violence may teach children to use violence
  • Violence can affect children in serious and long-lasting ways
  • Where there is domestic violence there is often child abuse
  • Children will often blame themselves for domestic violence
  • Alcohol misuse is very common contributing factor when violence occurs in families
  • Pregnant women are more vulnerable to domestic violence.
Children, who witness, intervene or hear incidents are affected in many ways. What can be guaranteed is that children do hear, they do see and they are aware of abuse in the family. Children will learn how to behave from examples parents set for them. Domestic violence teaches children negative things about relationships and how to deal with people. For instance:
  • It can teach them that violence is an acceptable way to resolve conflict
  • They learn how to keep secrets
  • They learn to mistrust those close to them and that children are responsible and to blame for violence, especially if violence erupts after an argument about the children.
Many people find it difficult to understand why people remain in or return to abusive violent situations. A combination of fear, love, the risk of homelessness and financial issues can make it very difficult for partners with children to leave and some may not want to.

Effects upon children

Children are affected in many ways by abuse, even after a short time. These effects include: feeling frightened, becoming withdrawn, bedwetting, running away, aggressiveness, behavioural difficulties, problems with school, poor concentration and emotional turmoil. The longer children are exposed to abuse, the more severe the effects on them are. These can include:
  • A lack of respect for the non-violent parent
  • Loss of self-confidence, which will affect their ability to form relationships in the future
  • Being over-protective of a parent
  • Loss of childhood
  • Problems at school
  • Running away.

What can I do?

Domestic violence is a crime. Never hesitate to call the police who have specialist domestic violence officers trained to help children and put you in touch with other agencies who can help you with safety planning, housing issues, drug or alcohol problems or give details of solicitors who can assist you with the legal side of things. Cambridgeshire Police can be contacted on 101 (non-emergencies). In case of emergency, please dial 999. If you are female and feel reluctant to speak to the police, we recommend you call Women’s Aid who is an independent charity run by women to help other women. You can speak to them in the strictest confidence about your problems and they can offer you practical and emotional support or help you find emergency refuge accommodation if you are escaping abuse. Peterborough Women’s Aid can be contacted on 01733 894455 (office Hours) or call 0808 2000 247 (Free phone 24 hour National Domestic Violence Helpline). Website:

Other Useful Links

If you are worried about domestic violence, discuss it with someone else. If you are violent and have children, you can seek help to stop what is happening. Listed below are some publications and organisations that can support you:
  • National Domestic Violence Helpline – 24 hour free phone Tel: 0808 2000 247
  • NSPCC Helpline: 0808 800 5000, Textphone: 0800 056 0566 Parentline: 0808 800 2222 Childline: 0800 1111