Increase in reports of abuse against children

Violence against children in homes where women have been abused has soared by 55 per cent according to Women’s Aid

Violence against children in homes where women have been abused has soared by 55 per cent, it has emerged. Photograph: PA

Violence against children in homes where women have been abused has soared by 55 per cent, it has emerged. Photograph: PA

 

Violence against children in homes where women have been abused has soared by 55 per cent, it has emerged.

Women’s Aid revealed a growing number of youngsters are being targeted as their mothers are also being victimised by a partner.

The charity heard 16,200 counts of physical, emotional, sexual and financial abuse of women in 2012, with 3,230 disclosing a child was targeted in the home, up from 2,076 in 2011.

Another 1,211 reported that children had witnessed horrific abuse and violence against their mothers, including rape.

Margaret Martin, Women’s Aid director, said domestic violence is a serious crime in Irish society that remains hidden and minimised.

“In 2012, women told us on 3,230 occasions that their children were being hit, including with household items, smacked, constantly shouted at, and in some cases, sexually abused,” she said.

“Children have witnessed their pets being abused, kicked and thrown against walls.

“At times, the perpetrator of the abuse has deliberately targeted the children as a way to hurt both them and their mother.”

The charity warned that the more severe the violence against the mother, the higher the risk of abuse against the children in the home.

It called for Government to recognise the links between domestic violence and child abuse and to take steps to increase the safety of vulnerable women and children, like an out of hours on call system for emergency barring orders and changes in the family courts.

The charity’s freephone helpline — 1800 341 900 — answered 11,729 calls last year, with staff holding 508 one-to-one support visits and 162 court accompaniments. An additional 239 face-to-face sessions took place at its referral service. Some 16,200 disclosures were made.

Some 97 per cent were women and almost half had been abused by their husband, 7 per cent by an ex-husband, 16 per cent by a partner and 10 per cent by an ex-partner.

Six out of ten had been living with abuse for more than six years, including 6 per cent who were with a violent partner for more than 30 years before seeking help.

Only 7 per cent of women got support in the first year of an abusive relationship.

Ms Martin revealed women reported being a prisoner in their own home, spat on, slapped, kicked, held down and strangled and beaten with household items, with some beaten and raped during pregnancy.

She said it is heart-breaking to listen to those living in a constant state of fear for their children and themselves.

“The ability of some women to escape domestic violence is being hampered by the recession,” Ms Martin added.

“Women fear increased impoverishment, losing their home and the effect of poverty on their children.

“Women, who do try to leave, often find it harder or impossible to access vital supports such as housing, refuge, welfare and legal representation.”

PA