25th November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, marks the beginning of 16 Days of Action against Domestic Violence. Specially, the campaign aims to highlight the significant impact of domestic violence in our world. It is a call to action for individuals, organisations and governments to eradicate this human rights issue and, aptly, ends on Human Rights Day. The campaign is important in raising awareness about gender-based violence, yet it is also essential to remember than men are also affected by domestic violence (DV) which occurs regardless of gender, ethnicity or sexuality.
The definitions and research around DV illustrate the nature of this type of abuse where “intimidation and aggression [are] used to exert control and power by one partner over another” (Buchanan, Power, & Verity, 2014, p. 714). Research indicates that 7.5% of women and 4.3% of men in England and Wales experienced DV between 2016-17 (Office for National Statistics, 2017). Consequently, almost one quarter of children, by the time they reach 18 years old, will have experienced domestic violence at some point in their childhood (Bentley et al., 2017). Moreover, nine out of ten children living with DV were in the same room or next room as the abuse (Webster, Coombe, & Stacey, 2002). It is unsurprising then that a myriad of research on the impact of DV on children highlights significant detrimental effects. For the majority of children living with DV there is measurable impact on their social, emotional and mental health (Thompson & Trice-Black, 2012); their learning in school (Harold, Aitken, & Shelton, 2007); how they interact and communicate feelings (Buckley, Holt & Whelan, 2007); and on their physical health (Stanley & Humphreys, 2014). Yet children are not all impacted by DV in the same way, indeed some scored comparably to their non-exposed peers on a number of outcomes (Kitzmann, Gaylord, Holt & Kenny, 2003). Osofsky (2003) suggested difference in experiences may be related to children’s risk and protective factors as well as the interaction with their environment.
The impact of DV on children’s development is often manifest in educational settings. It is within these educational settings that Educational Psychologists (EPs) mainly work and therefore are well-placed to support families affected by DV. EPs are skilled in listening to and eliciting children’s views and those of the family and school. We have in-depth knowledge about child development and use a range of tools and resources which can highlight the strengths and needs of children and young people. Interventions with individuals or groups of children and parents are well-suited to be designed and delivered by EPs in schools and in the community. Moreover, multiagency working, key to identification of children’s needs and supporting them holistically, is a central part of EP work. Additionally, many more EPs are engaging with research about the impact of DV and what support would be most appropriate to reduce the effects of this abuse (Ellis, 2018). However, the role of EPs in providing such support may at times be viewed with a lack of clarity; perhaps due to a lack of knowledge about DV and how best to support families due to the hidden nature of the issue or believing that other professionals are better placed to provide specialist support (Gallagher, 2014). Yet using our psychological skills and knowledge, alongside research and listening to the views of children and their families, EPs can have a positive impact in supporting individuals who have lived with DV.
If you are experiencing violence from a partner or family member, or you would like to find out more about support available in your area, check out this link: http://www.safelives.org.uk/about-us
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