Children are also the victims of domestic violence both directly and indirectly.
Children’s experiences, reactions and responses vary, with some children being affected far more than others, and children within the same family can be affected differently. The negative effects on children of witnessing, or overhearing violence are similar to the symptoms experienced by children who themselves have been abused.
These can include any of the following behavioural, physical and psychological effects, which may be short term and or long-term.
• Physical injuries, including bruises and broken bones
• Developmental delays in young children
• Psychosomatic problems e.g. stomach pains
• Bed wetting/soiling
• Nightmares/sleeping problems
• Low self esteem, lack of confidence
• Self destructive behaviour e.g. self mutilation, alcohol and drug abuse
• Emotional confusion in relation to parents
• Depression/suicidal feelings
• Eating disorders
• Being protective of mother/father and or siblings; by physically intervening etc
• Poor social skills
• Aggression, Acting out, Disruptive behaviour
• Advanced in maturity and in sense of responsibility
• Difficulties at school, or over studious
• Never wanting to miss school, or staying off to protect parent
• Difficulty trusting others and forming appropriate relationships
• Fear of intimacy or early promiscuity
• Introversion /withdrawal, clingy/over dependant, feeling helpless, feeling insecure, feeling fearful, feeling sad, feeling guilty, blaming self and others, feeling anxious and nervous
• Extroversion/acting out, too independent, rejecting help, feeling powerful, feeling over confident, having no fear, feeling rage, being aggressive, feeling invincible
The abuse of children is no longer a distant nightmare associated with a certain class in society. The ever-increasing problem of abuse affects children of every age, race, religion and economic background. Most children are abused by someone they love and trust, in most cases by a family member.
Child abuse can take many forms, but usually consists of one or more of the following: neglect, emotional abuse, physical and sexual abuse.
Neglect – Where a child’s need for food, warmth, shelter, nurture and safety are not provided, to the extent that the child suffers significant harm.
Emotional Abuse – Where a child’s need for affection, approval and security are not being met and have not been met for some time by their parent/carer. When a child is growing up with criticism and a sense of worthlessness.
Physical Abuse – When a child is assaulted or injured in some way that is deliberate.
Sexual Abuse – Where the child is used for the sexual gratification of another.
The statutory responsibility for dealing with child abuse rests with the director of community care in the H.S.E. and with his/her social workers, or alternatively with the Gardaí.
If you think a child is being abused or is at risk from someone inside or outside the family, get in touch with the duty social worker or other professionals in your local health centre. If it is an emergency outside H.S.E. hours, you should report it to the Gardaí.