Having survived Domestic Violence & Abuse (DVA) with my children I witnessed first hand the devastating impact of DVA on children. I am very delighted to add that, I also witnessed in marvel the remarkable healing and restoration my children experienced in the several months that followed our survival.
I have often said that, at times we as survivor mothers, do not fully realise the full impact of DVA on our children until we see who they become after going through their own unique journeys of healing and restoration.
I often wonder how many children actually recover from the impact of DVA. The general picture of the scale of children affected by DVA in the UK monthly, annually or in a lifetime is profoundly sobering.
In 2008 Sarah Boseley reported that an estimated 1 million children were affected by DVA in the UK, annually. She added that the true extent of the maltreatment of children was revealed by child abuse experts who claimed that 1 in 10 suffered physical, sexual, emotional abuse or neglect. Most maltreated children were not reported to services.
In 2009, in a report on the Protection of Children in England, The Lord Laming indicated that 55 children were killed by their carers or by someone known to the child; 1 in 55 children lived in a home where there was known high risk of domestic violence; and that 235 000 were ‘children in need’ and received support from local authorities.
More recently in 2011, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), in a report on child abuse and neglect, revealed that out of the UK child population of over 11 million, 12% of under 11s, 17.5% of 11–17s and 23.7% of 18–24s had been exposed to DVA between adults in their homes during their childhood. NSPCC also reported that adult males were the main perpetrators of DVA, accounting for 93.8% of all cases between parents.
Acknowledging that they do not know precisely how many children in the UK have been abused, the NSPCC this month reported that an estimated 50 500 children in the UK are known to be at risk of DVA right now. The NSPCC also reveals that research indicates abuse and neglect are both under-reported and under-recorded.
Though we pay attention to the statistics of children affected by DVA, we must pay greater attention to complete healing and restoration of these children. It is unfortunate that with all these profoundly sobering statistics, children living in an environment with DVA are not given sufficient priority.
The needs of children tend to be overlooked. Greater focus is placed on fostering “amicable” co-habitation or reconciliation of the parents, with the view that, if the perpetrator stops committing DVA – if and when he does, then the children’s needs would become satisfied. This a huge mis-conception, a challenge my children too were confronted with.
My children’s journey to healing and restoration began in the refuge. From what I witnessed, there is a part of their healing that came from being removed from the perpetrator and his environment – the former matrimonial home. That kind of healing occurred far much quicker than any other areas. Sitting in the larger context, it happened in almost like a sigh of relief.
Another part came from recovering from the different types of wounds inflicted by DVA. Still the other emerged when they each realised that they had aspirations that they could not only imagine but start building on as each day passes.
My children’s experience reveals that the needs of both the abused child and parent need to be addressed, effectively. If we do not assist our children right now – in the nick of time – their lives can exist in a damaged state for many years.
Healing from DVA is more like healing from a wound. If it is treated, healing prevails. If it is neglected, infections fester and prevail. It is therefore paramount for us to prioritise the complete healing and restoration of children affected by DVA, with the passion to build them up adequately for their future.
© Kudakwashe Nyakudya 2013. All Rights Reserved.