Domestic Abuse & Child
Part 1: Understanding the
(Speaker: Nel Whiting, Scottish Women’s Aid)
Help & Support
• Men’s Advice Line – 0808 801 0327
• Domestic Abuse Helpline – 0800 027
• Broken Rainbow – 0300 999 5428
Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006 s24, amending
Children (Scotland) Act 1995 s.11
• Have regard to need to protect the child
from any abuse:
• Abuse includes violence, harassment,
threatening conduct and any other conduct
giving rise, or likely to give rise, to physical
or mental injury, fear, alarm or distress.
• Also includes abuse of a person other than
the child
Defining harm- National Guidance for
Child Protection in Scotland 2010
• ‘Harm’ means the ill treatment or the impairment of
the health or development of the child, including, for
example, impairment suffered as a result of seeing or
hearing the ill treatment of another. In this contact
‘development’ can mean physical, intellectual,
emotional, social or behavioural development and
‘health’ can mean physical or mental health.
To understand and identify significant harm it is necessary to
consider the nature of the harm.
Domestic abuse
Not a fight
A course of conduct – control, fear etc
Intimate terrorism?
Tailored to the life of the individual victim (faith, immigration
status, geography etc)
• Overwhelmingly perpetrated by men against women
in heterosexual relationships
• Domestic abuse occurs in same sex relationships
• Also experienced by children – not ‘witness to’
• End of relationship is not the end of the
Children, Domestic Abuse & Child
Children in violent homes face three risks: the risk of observing traumatic
events, the risk of being abused themselves, and the risk of being neglected
(Mullender et al. 2003)
Research consistently shows that children living with domestic abuse have
higher rates of depression, trauma symptoms, and behavioural/cognitive
problems than other children (Humphreys 2006)
Evidence suggests that witnessing domestic abuse may be as harmful to
children as suffering physical abuse (Margolin, 1998)
Evidence shows there is a co-occurrence of domestic abuse and child abuse in
40% of cases (Walby 2004)
Pathways to harm
(from Safe & Together, David Mandel)
• Abuse by the perpetrator (towards child, non-abusing
parent, neglect)
• Effect on partner’s parenting (depression,
undermined, energy put into placating perpetrator)
• Effects on family ecology (loss of income, insecure
• All lead to harm to the child.
• Domestic abuse is therefore a
parenting choice by the perpetrator
Children’s Words
“The most helpful thing was when the
police came and stopped my dad and
let me see my mum. When the locks
were changed I felt safer and when we
were given alarms from the social
workers. When I went to court, they
showed me around to see what it was
Children’s Words
“I was really scared. I didn’t want any of it to
happen. Everybody was talking about it
before they spoke to me. Social workers kept
changing all the time. I was in one town then
the other. Adults should keep their promises.
I was told I wouldn’t have to see my dad in
court but he was there laughing. Don’t make
children go to court.”
Weight Attached to Children’s Views (Example 1)
• Katie and Sophie see the reporter together and state:
“they do not want to see their father and say they will run away if they are
made to see him.” Aged 8 & 10 years.
– “There appear to be no child welfare based reasons why contact
should not operate [....]I do not feel that either of the girls are
sufficiently mature to be able to evaluate their feelings objectively.
[....]The girls are obviously fearful of their father, but I do suspect
this is a result of the perception of their mother’s reaction rather
than a genuine fear of spending time with the pursuer.”
Outcome: Contact ordered
Weight Attached to Children’s Views
(Example 2)
Louise (age 6)
“She says she would not like this because she would feel scared”
“While it is generally accepted that is in theory positive for children
to have a contact relationship with a parent post separation,
there are some cases in which that is simply not the case
because of issues between the parents. This is one such case
in her [psychologists] view.”
Outcome: No Contact

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