In 2011 Offaly Domestic Violence Support Service saw over 145 children availing of domestic violence support through their mothers.
As these children are under eighteen years of age ODVSS cannot offer any direct support. Domestic Violence is a devastating social problem and impacts on every segment of society. While most services directly help the adults of domestic violence it is now necessary to focus on children who witness domestic abuse. Children who live with domestic violence face increased risks: the risk of exposure to traumatic events, the risk of neglect, the risk of being directly abused, and the risk of losing one or both of their parents. All of these may lead to negative outcomes for children and may affect their well-being, safety, and stability. The first signs of abuse in a family can be very subtle and then escalates over time, because the abuse can be so subtle is can be hard for parents to recognise the affects the abuse has on children. Many children are forced into secrecy and hide what is going on at home, others may be used to break up an abusive incident between parents. Children can suffer high levels of anger, aggression, fear, withdrawal, depression, poor sibling relationships, poor school performance, low self-esteem, low confidence, anxiety, poor cognitive skills. Many children of domestic violence families suffer depression as adults, and may also grow up become abusers, women may marry abusive partners. The cycle starts again. Family life is dysfunctional; violence becomes the norm for them. This is there normality. As children witness abuse they become desensitised to violence in general.
“In Offaly Domestic Violence Support Service we help parents identify the pattern and cycle of abuse and help them to see the effects this abuse has on their children. By empowering parents and helping them break the silence and take responsibility of the abuse we then give a voice to children,” said Anne Clarke Development Manager of ODVSS.
Parents are encouraged to contact a wide network of counselling services such as Rainbows, Barnardos play therapy for younger children. “We encourage parent’s strengths and protect adult’s victims so that children are not harmed. Under the new Children’s First Policy there are now strict guidelines to protect children who are witnessing domestic violence,” said Ms Clarke.
Offaly Domestic Violence Support Service is based in Tullamore and also operates outreach clinic throughout the county. ODVSS provides crisis support, information, practical support, helpline, advocacy, to women and families who have experienced domestic violence or abuse. Client information and personal experiences is treated with the utmost confidentiality. If you have experienced domestic violence or abuse then contact ODVSS on 0579351886, www.odvss.ie, email firstname.lastname@example.org or through their Facebook page.