NSPCC records sharp rise in ‘frightened children living in violent homes’ in Suffolk and Essex
Children in Suffolk and Essex are increasingly being exposed to the “devastating” effects of domestic violence, charities have warned.
The NSPCC published new figures today showing the number of referrals it has made to agencies in the East of England regarding children affected by domestic abuse increased by 41% last year.
It received more calls than ever before about violent and abusive behaviour around children, including parents being hospitalised and children being exposed to “rage and rough handling”.
Charities working with the victims of domestic abuse in Suffolk and Essex have also reported increasing referrals – though they said this could be due to better awareness and increased confidence in reporting.
Sally Winston, CEO of Lighthouse Women’s Aid in Suffolk, said the figures were “alarming but not unexpected”.
“The effect on victims can be devastating,” she added.
“Domestic abuse is about power and control and can have seriously traumatic effects for victims including the total loss of self-esteem and the feeling of complete hopelessness, fear and despair.”
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Ms Winston said that children exposed to the violence can also suffer “fear, insecurity and behavioural issues”, as well as the potential to become victims of perpetrators themselves.
Keith Whitton, director of operations at Anglia Care Trust, which supports victims across the region, said his charity has also seen a “consistent increase” in the number of children witnessing domestic abuse.
Suffolk’s police and crime commissioner Tim Passmore has given more than £2million in four years to organisations helping victims and says his support will continue.
“For as long as I’m PCC dealing with domestic abuse will remain a focus for the team,” he added.
“It can be a brutal and barbaric crime and I think all of us have a responsibility to tackle it – that’s why we are spending such large sums of money. Head of the protecting vulnerable people command at Suffolk Constabulary, Det. Supt Eamonn Bridger said all domestic abuse calls were given a priority response and officers’ focus was to work with the victims and partners in tackling this crime.
It is also important to acknowledge the role that local authorities play in terms of actively seeking to understand the impact domestic abuse in the home has on children and how strategies can be created that ensure children are at the forefront and get the appropriate support,” he added.
Det Supt Bridger said there was a dedicated team of domestic abuse specialists who worked closely with the Independent Domestic Violence Advisors (IDVAs), Victim Support and other local and national organisations in order to get the right advice and support for victims.
“We remain committed to providing victims with the best possible service regardless of whether they wish to see a case proceed to court,” he added.
“There are a range of protective measures that we and our partners can put in place and we would implore anyone who has or is suffering from domestic abuse to come and speak with us.”
Peter Wanless, NSPCC’s chief executive, said: “Domestic abuse can have a huge impact on a child’s physical and emotional wellbeing and this sharp increase in reports shows that more people are speaking up on behalf of frightened children living in violent homes.”
Nationally, the NSPCC received almost 5,000 calls to its helpline about domestic abuse last year. The charity is urging people to call if they have a concern.