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Our October Blog is written by our Children and Young People’s Team.


It is a long held common misconception that children are unaffected by domestic abuse. The idea that children must directly ‘witness’ violence in order to be aware of and affected by abuse has been disproven in recent years. We now know that children and young people ARE detrimentally affected by living with an abusive parent. Even when they don’t see it. They feel it, they hear it, they live it.

Domestic abuse includes financial, emotional, physical and sexual abuse, as well as any other form of controlling or coercive behaviour. It is normally present during the relationship, but often escalates at the point of separation and remains long after the relationship is over, especially when children are involved. Children and child contact are frequently used as part of the continued abuse, something which is now recognised in legislation. This could be using the child to carry messages or to disclose personal information about the other parent, abuse or the threat of violence at drop offs and picks ups, or withholding financial support or child contact.

The exposure to abuse, whether direct or indirect, affects a child’s global development – their safety and sense of stability, their physical and mental health, emotional wellbeing, self confidence, personal relationships including childhood friendships and adult partners, achievements in school and beyond.
The Children and Young People’s Team at Edinburgh Women’s Aid supports children from age 5 to 18, in all aspects of their recovery from domestic abuse.

With a child-centred, rights based approach, the Family Support Work team and Art Therapist provide individual support through arts and creativity, play and discussion.

Families living in refuge are supported to settle safely into their new homes and localities, CEDAR provides mothers and children with a structured group recovery programme and the holiday programmes offer children an opportunity to socialise and understand that they are not alone in their experiences.

The Children’s Rights and Participation Service supports children to understand their rights and to share their views in family court. Staff work closely with schools, social work and health professionals to ensure children and young people who have experienced domestic abuse are able to reach their full potential.


Michael’s experience – (all names have been changed)
Michael lives with his mum and has no contact with his dad. He has additional support needs and struggles with friendships. Mum also struggles with friendships due to isolation during and after her abusive relationship. Michael attended individual support sessions in school and was invited to join the Summer Group Programme. Both him and his mum were apprehensive due to his social anxieties, his additional needs and because he had never been able to attend a group holiday programme before.
At first, Michael was incredibly shy, interacting mostly with his keyworker, but as the weeks progressed, he demonstrated increasing confidence, joining in with group activities and making friends with other young people. When his mum collected him after the final session, she thanked staff for helping her son ‘feel normal again’.


Ruth’s experience –
Ruth and her children fled to refuge in the school holidays. The children’s worker brought the family new clothes, toys, books and school uniforms to replace all that they had left behind. Mum was supported to complete school registration documents and to find local activities to enrol her children.
In school, the children’s worker visited each week to help the children understand why they had moved and to process their emotions around this significant life change. At home, the worker offered mum guidance and support in sharing age-appropriate information with the children in order to keep them safe and to help rebuild their relationships after the disruption. Mum reported that a ‘weight had been lifted’ through the guidance and support of the children’s team.


Tom’s experience –
Tom witnessed his mum being assaulted by her boyfriend and felt guilty for not being able to prevent this or protect her. Mum felt similarly guilty about exposing her son to violence and abuse. The relationship between mother and son broke down when mum made the difficult decision to put her son in foster care for his own safety. By attending CEDAR, mum and son were able to understand their own emotions better and begin to discuss their experiences and move forward. Both reported feeling less guilty by the end of the programme.