Most relationships are not characterised by domestic violence, but a minority are. Domestic violence can come in the form of physical abuse, but can also very often be of a psychological nature causing the victim to lose all sense of self-esteem and feeling “controlled” by the perpetrator.

At a conference on the issue of domestic violence in London last week, health workers from around the country, together with other leading experts on the topic of domestic violence, determined that one out of five incidents of domestic violence occurred in front of children.

Children are particularly vulnerable since they have no sense of control over a domestic violence situation and as a consequence may suffer from bedwetting, insomnia and anxiety.

Brought up in an environment with domestic violence can also “normalise” violent acts and later on in life children brought up in such an environment can themselves perpetrate domestic violence and abuse as adults.

One of the prime mantras of the conference was the need for the victims of domestic violence to be able to “open up” to health professionals they come in contact with so as to create a safe and private environment. In particular the conference believes that front line staff such as GPs, nurses, paediatricians and mental health professionals should continue to be vigilant toward indicators of abuse including repeated injuries that come with a “vague or implausible explanation”. Depression and anxiety can also be indicators of domestic violence.

Above all else the conference identified the need for a multi-agency approach toward identifying the victims of domestic violence whilst being supportive and compassionate toward their needs. When domestic violence remains unaddressed and spirals out of control there are also legal remedies that are available to assist the victim and protect their physical wellbeing, as well as the children of the family. The police in particular are now in the frontline of victim support and protection and ultimately a civil law remedy might also prove to be appropriate when circumstances arise.

Above all else, domestic violence cannot and should not be tolerated in any shape or form and those suffering should be identified and looked after and the perpetrators should themselves be encouraged to seek help.

Caption: Andrew Brooks. Partner, Head of the Family Department

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