Tees Safeguarding Children Partnerships' Procedures Download Referral Form Consult 'Providing the Right Support'

Assessing and Responding to the Impact of Domestic Abuse

The aim of this procedure is to identify the potential impact of domestic abuse on children. It does not replace any relevant organisational or safeguarding guidance in respect of the adult victim or perpetrator. It is intended for anyone involved in providing services to adults who are parents/carers carers or services for unborn babies, children and young people.

1. Introduction

1.1 This procedure is to be used to ensure the likelihood and severity of the impact of domestic abuse on a child is considered, assessed and managed promptly and effectively. It involves the practitioner thinking about any child within the family, the nature of risk and also the protective factors for the child. It requires practitioners to seek information and use their professional judgement.

1.2 Professionals in all agencies can become aware of domestic abuse being present in the lives of children and families they work with through:

  • Disclosure prompted by professionals from all agencies using routine questioning or the identification of signs that domestic abuse is taking place. With the exception of the police, all agencies should refer using the SAFER Referral Form. (Police will use their own referral - G01.66 DV form).
  • Unprompted disclosure from a child or parent
  • Any third party (e.g. neighbours, friends or family members)

1.3 Professionals should refer to the relevant Tees Threshold document (Providing the Right Support) to inform and assist in their decision making.

1.4 Where the Police are called to a domestic abuse incident they will also follow their internal procedures in respect of Operation Encompass. Operation Encompass is a process by which key adults in schools, academies, colleges and nurseries are informed by the police that a child attending their premises may have been affected by domestic abuse. This will mean that a child has been in a household where an incident of domestic abuse has taken place and that they were present, witnessed or were involved in it.

1.5 The records of all police call-outs to domestic incidents will be reviewed daily to ascertain if a child meets the criteria for referral.


2. Definitions

2.1 Domestic abuse is defined by the Home Office as: ‘Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality’. This can include but is not limited to the following types of abuse:

  • Psychological
  • Physical
  • Sexual
  • Financial
  • Emotional

2.2 The definition is further explained below:

2.2.1 Controlling behaviour is: a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.

2.2.2 Coercive behaviour is: an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.

2.2.3 This definition includes 'honour’ based violence, female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriage, and is clear that victims are not confined to one gender or ethnic group.

2.2.4 Intimate Partners -means that there must be, or have been, a relationship with a degree of continuity or stability. The relationship must also have, or have had (or be reasonably supposed to have or have had); a sexual aspect such as in the relationship a husband and wife or between others generally recognised as a couple, including same sex couples. The partners or ex-partners need not be living together on a full-time, continuing basis and need not ever have done so.

2.2.5 Family Members includes mother, father, son, daughter, brother, sister, grandparents, in-laws and step-family whether directly related or not.

2.2.6 Psychological Abuse could include abuse arising out of gender, race, religion, age or disability; humiliation or ridiculing the person or their conduct, bullying or intimidation; deprivation of ordinary social contact.

2.2.7 Physical Abuse means any offence of violence ranging from common assaults to murder.

2.2.8 Emotional Abuse means any harm deliberately or recklessly inflicted on another person's emotional well-being.

2.2.9 Financial Abuse is the abuse of power in a relationship where one partner maintains control over the other's money.


3. Impact on children

3.1 Domestic abuse often exists as the result of and/or alongside other presenting problems for the parent/s e.g. drug and alcohol abuse, mental health difficulties, poor childhood experiences. These factors increase the difficulty the parent has in providing adequate care and can result in abuse or neglect of the child. Domestic abuse can impact on the development and well-being of a child in a number of ways.

3.2 These include:

  • Increased risk of physical injury (either caused directly or as an attempt by the child to intervene)
  • Anxiety and distress;
  • Unborn children;
  • Risk of injury to the foetus due to violence during pregnancy e.g. brain damage or fractures;
  • Miscarriage;
  • Premature birth;
  • Difficulties for children from BME backgrounds may be compounded by difficulty in seeking help, language and interpreting problems, and the loss of community protective factors.


4. Age Specific Factors

4.1 Unborn children and those under 1 year old 

  • Injury;
  • Development hindered by a parent/carer unable to properly care e.g. the adult is depressed due to the being the victim of domestic abuse;
  • Poor attachment;
  • Frequent illness;
  • In almost a third of cases, domestic abuse begins or escalates during pregnancy and is associated with increased rates of miscarriage, premature birth, foetal injury and foetal death. Mothers may be prevented from seeking or receiving proper ante-natal or post natal care which may impact on attachment.

4.2 Young children 

  • Increased risk of sexual abuse (see Domestic violence and child protection. Humphreys and Stanley 2006);
  • Aggression towards family and/or peers;
  • Anxiety and withdrawal;
  • Blaming themselves for the domestic abuse;
  • Bed-wetting;
  • Behavioural problems;
  • Fear of actual or threatened violence;
  • Difficulties at school;

4.3 Adolescents

Adolescents may exhibit the same symptoms as younger children but in addition may also exhibit:

  • Actual or threatened violence/sexual abuse from a partner (in a survey of girls age 13-17 one in six said they had been hit by their boyfriend, one is sixteen that they had been raped. See Partner exploitation and violence in teenage intimate relationships. NSPCC 2009;
  • Feelings of fear, sadness, loneliness despair and/or anger;
  • Behavioural problems;
  • Running away;
  • Self-harming;
  • Difficulty with friendships. (It should be noted that friends can act as confidants and offer support. However, in some circumstances issues such as behavioural or withdrawal or an inability to invite a friend home may make it difficult to make/retain close friends).


5. Considering the impact of domestic abuse where there is a child in the family 

5.1 The following is to help you when considering the likelihood and severity of the impact of domestic abuse on a child; it is not intended to replace professional judgement but when read alongside the relevant Threshold document should help you to determine the action you need to take; Early Help Assessment, Referral to Children’s Social Care and or notification to the Police. Follow Tees Safeguarding Children Procedures advising how to make a referral.

5.2 You need to think about the nature of risk but also the protective factors for the child. Examples of protective factors include:

  • A sound safety plan/provision of support services has been put into place for the victim that can be depended upon to meet the needs of any children in the family.
  • The victim of domestic abuse has insight into their situation and is able to take the appropriate action to significantly reduce the impact of this on the child/children and is sufficiently supported.


6. Assessing Risk 

6.1 If any of the following factors are present they are likely to have a direct impact on the safety and well-being of the child and a referral to Children’s Social Care and the Police should be made.

  • If the DASH (Domestic Abuse, Stalking and Harassment Risk Identification Checklist) has identified the victim as high risk and meets the criteria for referral to MARAC (Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference), consider raising this for consideration at the next available conference.
  • The child has been hurt and/or threatened with abuse by the perpetrator of the domestic abuse.
  • Substance misuse or alcohol abuse, learning disability/difficulties or mental health issues
  • The presence of an unborn child or child under 1 year of age.

7. Flowchart

8. Useful Guidance Pathway Tools, Contacts and Websites: