The 'hidden' victims of violence at home

CHILDREN from rural areas are the "hidden victims" of domestic violence, a report from the Countryside Agency and Save the Children claimed today .Many of those who flee from home to escape their plight are at risk of missing out on public services, it said.

By John Howard

CHILDREN from rural areas are the "hidden victims" of domestic violence, a report from the Countryside Agency and Save the Children claimed today .

Many of those who flee from home to escape their plight are at risk of missing out on public services, it said.

The research is unique in examining the problems of children trying to escape abuse at home.


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It found serious gaps in the services provided to this vulnerable group, from housing to education, as well as a lack of awareness among young people about the range of help available to them.

The report, Children and domestic violence in rural areas, calls on rural service providers to be more proactive at promoting themselves.

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Problems with schooling and social isolation are highlighted as key issues by those children and service providers questioned in the study.

In cases where rural children had to move away to escape violence, it could be a number of months before a school place was found for them – which had significant social and academic consequences.

Abrupt departures from friends, often with no opportunity to say goodbye, were found to be particularly distressing. Geographical isolation also made it difficult for children in rural areas to forge new friendships.

Tony Lewis, a Suffolk county councillor with the portfolio of children and young people, said: "Domestic violence is a problem we are seeking to stop, it is a problem in rural areas because who sees it? It is less likely there are neighbours, than if you live in a row of terrace houses and hear the violence.''

Mr Lewis said councillors were looking at initiatives including providing extra services at schools, such as advice and supporting a number of organisations including one which supports parents.

Margaret Clark, Countryside Agency director, said: "Domestic violence has serious consequences for young people, even when they are not being physically abused.

"It can result in sudden moves to emergency accommodation, disrupted education and emotional dislocation. But this study suggests there is a serious vacuum when it comes to support for many children and young people who are escaping violent homes in rural areas.

"There is need for greater collaboration between the various agencies which are in contact with these children, especially in rural areas where support services are more difficult to deliver and where often there are significant gaps.''

Carol Sexty, policy and research manager at Save the Children said the research found that it is most often children who are the hidden victims of domestic violence in rural areas.

The report's recommendations include all women's refuges having a child worker, the need for suitable temporary accommodation and permanent housing for mothers and teenage boys fleeing domestic violence and teacher training courses and schools to include the subject of domestic violence on the curriculum.

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