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Listen to Me!: Children's Experiences of Domestic Violence

NCJ Number
Child Abuse Review Volume: 16 Issue: 5 Dated: September-October 2007 Pages: 296-310
Helen Buckley; Stephanie Holt; Sadhbh Whelan
Date Published
September 2007
15 pages
Based on information from focus groups (n=70) in Ireland during 2005--including 37 service providers/volunteers, 11 mothers, and 22 children who had lived in violent environments--this study determined the impact of domestic violence on children, identified their needs, and developed recommendations for interventions brokered through a centrally based women's support service.
One of the most significant trends found was that the impact of being exposed to violent events varied with the types of violent events and the individual characteristics of the child. Impacts varied even with children in the same family. Still, there were some common features of the children's experiences. A common reaction to a violent environment was the children's concern about their safety and security as well as the safety of their mothers and siblings. The children experienced a loss of self-esteem in relation to their peers as they harbored the secret of a family life they believed was so different from that of their schoolmates. Some were bullied at school. When asked about what services they felt would be helpful for children exposed to domestic violence, the youth over 17 years old focused on the need for school-based services. They experienced little understanding or perception from teachers about the possibility that children might have violent home lives. They felt that if school staff showed an awareness of domestic violence as a significant problem for some children, then children would be more willing to confide in respected and sensitive adults at school. The study recommends that institutions outside the home with which children interact regularly, such as the school, provide training to staff that enables them to recognize those behaviors and emotional states in children/youth that suggest a violent home environment, and how staff can respond appropriately. 48 references