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Definition

The definition of domestic violence and abuse now includes young people aged 16 – 17 and aims to increase awareness that young people in this age group do experience domestic violence and abuse.

"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 encompass but is not limited to the following types of abuse:

  • Psychological;
  • Physical; 
  • Sexual;
  • Financial;
  • Emotional.

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.

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.”

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

Where there is domestic violence and abuse, the wellbeing of the children in the household must be promoted and all assessments must consider the need to safeguard the children, including unborn child/ren.


Risks

The emotional responses of children who witness domestic violence and abuse may include fear, guilt, shame, sleep disturbances, sadness, depression, and anger (at both the abuser for the violence and at other parent for being unable to protect).

Physical responses may include stress-induced aches and pains, bedwetting, and inability to concentrate. Some children are the direct victims of other types of abuse or injured while trying to intervene on behalf of their parent or sibling.

The behavioural responses of children who witness domestic violence and abuse may include acting out, withdrawal, or anxiousness to please. A change in achievement or behaviour at school can be an indicator of problems at home.

Domestic violence and abuse may have a long term psychological and emotional impact in a number of ways:

  • Children may be greatly distressed by witnessing (seeing or hearing) the physical and emotional suffering of a parent, or witnessing the outcome of any assault;
  • Children may be pressurised into concealing assaults, and experience the fear and anxiety of living in an environment where abuse occurs;
  • The domestic violence and abuse may impact negatively on an adult victim’s parenting capacity;
  • Children may be drawn into the violence and themselves become victims of physical abuse.

For children living in situations of domestic violence and abuse, the effects may result in behavioural issues, absence from school, difficulties concentrating, lower school achievement, ill health, bullying, substance misuse, self-harm, running away, anti-social behaviour and physical injury.

During pregnancy, domestic violence and abuse can pose a threat to an unborn child as assaults on pregnant women often involve punches or kicks directed at the abdomen, risking injury to both the mother and the foetus. In almost a third of cases, domestic violence and abuse begins or escalates during pregnancy and it is associated with increased rates of miscarriage, premature birth, foetal injury and foetal death. The mother may be prevented from seeking or receiving anti-natal care or post-natal care. In addition if the mother is being abused this can affect her attachment to her child, more so if the pregnancy is a result of rape by her partner.

Young people themselves can be subjected to domestic violence and abuse perpetrated in order to force them into marriage or to punish him/her for ‘bringing dishonour on the family’. This abuse may be carried out by several members of a family increasing the young person’s sense of isolation and powerlessness.


Indicators

Professionals should be alert to the signs that a child or adult may be experiencing domestic violence and abuse, or that a partner may be perpetrating domestic violence and abuse. Professionals should always consider during an assessment the need to offer children and adults the opportunity of being seen alone and ask whether they are experiencing, or have previously experienced, domestic violence and abuse.

Professionals who are in contact with adults who are threatening or abusive to them need to be alert to the potential that these individuals may be abusive in their personal relationships and assess whether domestic violence and abuse is occurring within the family.

Considerations in assessments where domestic violence and abuse may be present include:

  • Checking whether domestic violence and abuse has occurred whenever child abuse is suspected and considering the impact of this at all stages of assessment, enquiries and intervention this should include checks with the Police unit responsible for vulnerable people and any domestic violence and abuse screening process;
  • Identifying those who are responsible for domestic violence and abuse, in order that relevant family law or criminal justice responses may be made;
  • Providing victims with full information about their legal rights, and about the extent and limits of statutory duties and powers;
  • Helping victims and children to get protection from violence, by providing relevant practical and other assistance;
  • Supporting non-abusing parents in making safe choices for themselves and their children;
  • Taking into account that there may be continued or increased risk of domestic violence and abuse towards the abused parent and/or child after separation especially in connection with post-separation child contact arrangements;
  • Working separately with each parent where domestic violence and abuse prevents non-abusing parents from speaking freely and participating without fear of retribution;
  • Working with parents to help them understand the impact of the domestic violence and abuse on their children.

Protection and Action to be Taken

Domestic violence and abuse is a complex issue that needs sensitive handling by a range health and social care professionals. The cost, in both human and economic terms, is so significant that even marginally effective interventions are cost effective. (NICE 2014).

Working in a multi-agency partnership is the most effective way to approach the issue at both an operational and a strategic level. Initial and ongoing training and organisational support is also needed. (NICE 2014).

When responding to incidents of domestic violence and abuse, the practitioner should always find out if there are any children in the household or any children who would normally live in the household. The Police or other agencies should ensure the children are seen and their safety established whenever they attend a domestic violence and abuse incident. Where there are concerns a referral should be made to MASH in accordance with the MASH Enquiries Procedure.

Click here to see the Barnardo’s Domestic Violence Risk Identification Matrix which is used in MASH to explore areas of risk and protective factors in relation to perpetrators, victims and children and suggests levels of intervention. The younger the children in the family, or the presence of special needs, the higher the risk to their safety.

Babies under 12 months old are particularly vulnerable to violence. Professionals who become aware of an incident of domestic violence and abuse in a family with a child under 12 months old (even if the child was not present) or in families where a woman is pregnant, should always complete a risk assessment to determine what action is required including consideration of whether a referral to Children’s Services should take place.

Professionals should make a record of their assessment and the information which underpins it, inform their line manager and refer to Children’s Services.

In all cases where a referral is made for a Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) to plan intervention in relation to a high risk domestic violence situation if there are children in the family an enquiry must be made to MASH.

In situations when the adult victim has left the perpetrator taking the child/ren, professionals need to be alert to the on-going potential for risk. The dynamics of domestic violence and abuse are based on the perpetrator maintaining power and control over their partner. Challenges to that power and control, for example, by separation may increase the likelihood of escalating violence. Statistically the period following separation is the most dangerous time for serious injury and death. Professionals in contact with children and their families in these cases would need to consider:

  • The previous level of physical danger to the adult victim and in particular the presence of the child during violent episodes;
  • The previous pattern of power, control and intimidation in addition to the physical violence;
  • The level of coercive or manipulative behaviour of the parent who was violent;
  • Any threats to hurt or kill family members or abduct the child/ren;
  • Any information about parental drug or alcohol misuse, or poor mental health;
  • Any reported stalking or obsession about the separated partner or the family;
  • The motivation of the parent in seeking/ maintaining contact with the child/ren - is it a desire to promote the child’s best interest or as a means of continuing intimidation, harassment or violence to the other parent;
  • The child/ren’s views about contact and whether they have any worries about the contact taking place;
  • Has there been a shared decision regarding the arrangements for contact including location;
  • The likely or reported behaviour of the parent during contact and its effect on the child;
  • The partner’s level of care and supervision of the child/ren in the past;
  • The attitude of the parent to their past violence and capacity to appreciate its effect, and whether they are motivated and have the capacity to change;
  • Be alert to cultural issues when dealing with ethnic minority victims and that, in leaving a partner, they may be ostracised by family, friends and the wider community increasing the risks to their safety.

Issues

There are many risk assessment models and ‘tools’ available. Practitioners need to be confident that the use of a particular tool has been adopted and supported by the local agencies. Also that the risk assessment tool is both culturally sensitive and also explicitly considers the risks to children and is not exclusively adult focussed.

The full extent of the impact on children of exposure to domestic abuse is often not fully understood until a child feels safe; they will need several opportunities over a period of time to talk about their experiences.

Children can also experience domestic violence and abuse within their own relationships. Girls are more likely than boys to report experiencing abuse in their intimate relationships, and younger adolescents are just as likely as older adolescents to experience it. Most children do not tell an adult about this abuse.

The issue of domestic violence and abuse should only ever be raised with a child or mother when they are safely on their own and in a private place; separation does not ensure safety, it often at least temporarily increases the risk to the child/ren or mother.

Information from the public, family or community members must be taken sufficiently seriously by professionals in statutory and voluntary agencies. Recent research evidence indicates that failure to do so has been a contributory factor in a significant number of cases where a child has been seriously harmed or died.

Risk of violence towards professionals should be considered by all agencies who work in the area of domestic violence and abuse and assessments of risk should be undertaken when necessary. It is acknowledged that intimidatory or threatening behaviour towards professionals may inhibit the professional’s ability to work effectively. The importance of effective supervision and management is highlighted and agencies should take account of the impact or potential impact on professionals in planning their involvement in situations of domestic violence and abuse.


Further Information

The intervention of the Courts and Police can make a violent person realise the consequences of her/his actions and s/he may be deterred by the threat of possible imprisonment. An injunction may not necessarily stop a violent person being violent, and it is possible that the person's response to being served with a Court Order could inflame the situation further. Court orders should only be seen as part of a solution for how a client deals with domestic violence, and not as a long term measure.

An injunction is a Court order to restrain the violent party from molesting, harassing or going to the home of the plaintiff. It is possible to obtain an injunction urgently if required. In addition the court can impose a restraining order as part of sentencing in a criminal case of harassment. This is under the Crime (Disorderly Conduct and Harassment) (Jersey) Law 2008.

Legal representation is necessary, so a phone call can be made to the Acting Bâtonnier to arrange this under Legal Aid (Jersey Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) can provide support and information on the current Bâtonnier, or the client may have her/his own lawyer. CAB is situated at St Paul's Centre, New Street, St Helier, JE2 3WP. CAB is open Monday to Friday from 10.00am to 3.00pm for walk in clients and appointments. CAB provide telephone advice on Freephone 0800 735 0249. We also offer an e-mail advice service on advice@cab.org.je.

Sensible security precautions should be taken as well (e.g. change locks, have a friend or family member move in, notify honorary Police). See Citizens Advice Bureau, Crime and Violence Law.

Helpful Contacts:

If there is immediate danger:

  • Dial 999;
  • At other times contact 612612 to report a crime or 612239 to ask Police Domestic Abuse Officers for help and advice.

Independent Domestic Violence Advisor (IDVA):

The IDVA works with high risk victims (male and female) of domestic abuse to help them access services to keep them and their children safe. Referral can be made through any agency or by the individual him/herself. Contact 07797818324 or 07797818327.

Jersey Women’s Refuge:

The refuge is a confidential service which offers support, advice and safe accommodation to female victims of domestic abuse. The 24 hour helpline number is 08007356836.

Victim Support:

Provides advice, information, listening, ongoing support and referrals for male victims of domestic abuse. Contact 440496.

Adapt:

This service is aimed at men who would like to stop their abusive behaviour.  Referral can be made through any agency or by the individual himself.  Contact 07797732207.

Crimestoppers:

Jersey Crimestoppers is an independent charity working to fight crime. Call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800555111 if you are worried about someone’s safety.

Safe Lives (formerly CAADA)

The Hideout – a resource created by Women’s Aid to help children understand domestic violence

NICE PH 50 Domestic Violence and Abuse – various tools and guidance

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