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Violence in the home - who are the real victims?

View profile for Mike Devlin
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A recent study by experts from University of London and at the Anna Freud Centre suggest that children living in homes where violence takes place may actually have their brains affected by their home life situation, in a similar way to soldiers in combat. This must be a horrifying thought for any parent trapped in this position with their children. There is now evidence that these children are at greater risk of mental health problems including anxiety and depression which may only surface when they are older.

This research is starting to provide growing evidence of the emotional effect upon children of violence within their homes. The results of testing suggest that children subjected to fear, and the witnessing of violence are increasingly wary of potential threat situations and become heightened in their reaction to potential threats – very much the reaction of many soldiers who face life threatening combat situations. No parent would wish to expose a child to essentially “war-like” consequences for them within the supposed safety of their own homes.

It has been the belief of experts for some time now that exposing children to domestic violence puts them at the very least at risk of emotional harm, never mind the potential of being hurt themselves in the cross-fire. Alarmingly there now appears to be evidence that domestic violence may have a direct effect upon a child’s brain development with both short and long term consequences. This was proven by children who had been exposed to violence within their homes, undergoing brain scans. Their results were very similar to scans produced from soldiers who had been in combat.

For families living in these situations, it is extremely important that help is sought for the victims and also for the perpetrator. Within our communities there are organisations who can offer support and counselling to family members. The earlier the intervention within the family, the more chance there is of a successful outcome. The right help can make a difference.  Families can stay together with support to enable change. 

For those families who are at risk of immediate harm, they must seek urgent help from the police and legal advice from a specialist family solicitor, call our free initial advice helpline on 0800 073 1324.

By family law solicitor and Stephensons’ Partner, Mandy Rimmer