235 local referrals just ‘tip of the iceberg’

An NSPCC representative revealed at the ‘Connecting the Dots’ Conference on Wednesday how NSPCC staff in the charity’s Foyle Centre have dealt with a total of 235 referrals for domestic abuse services since April 2014.

Christine Harkin, NSPCC Children’s Services Practitioner said the organisation estimates the figure to be the tip of the iceberg in terms of children who are caught up in situations of domestic abuse.

“This is something which is under reported and it is happening here in our town.”

The NSPCC expert said there were some misconceptions around how children were impacted in homes where they were exposed to domestic abuse.

She added: “Many times, children will see the abuse taking place but they don’t always have to be physically present. Just because a child is not present, it doesn’t mean they are not impacted. Children can hear abuse taking place from another room and they can see the injuries.”

Ms. Harkin went on to describe the effects of domestic abuse on children.

“Children exposed to domestic abuse are also exposed to parental mental health issues like alcohol abuse and anti-social behaviour. All of that harm mounts up and the relationship with the non abusive parent is strained.

“All children exposed - regardless of their age - are at risk of being traumatised. Exposure to domestic abuse can have an impact on brain development and can lead to disruptive behaviour, and subsequently difficulties in school and other long term issues.

“Often for children, the relationship with the non-abusive parent becomes strained. Our services respond to the needs of mothers and children in terms of recovering from domestic abuse and the results that we’re seeing are largely very positive.”

Delegates gathered on Wednesday heard more about the NSPCC’s ‘Domestic Abuse Recovering Together’ (DART) project which supports mothers and their children who have been exposed to domestic abuse.

Adults concerned about a child should contact 0808 800 5000 to find out more about the support offered by the NSPCC.