The Department for Children, Schools and Families’ consultation on early intervention is due to be launched next month and will emphasise the need to identify and educate those children affected by, or at-risk of, domestic violence.
The move was announced in the Home Office’s strategy to tackle violence against women and girls, published yesterday.
The report said prevention of domestic violence can have a positive effect on other areas within social services, such as mental health issues, sexual health problems and incidence of teenage pregnancy.
Sheila Brookes, coordinator of the West Cheshire Domestic Abuse Family Safety Unit, said any move towards raising awareness of domestic violence amongst young people was welcome, even if the young people themselves were not the direct victims.
“The needs of all the generations in a family should to be addressed together,” she said. “We can’t ignore the next generation of young people growing up and forming relationships, so as far as I’m concerned anything that assists young people to respect themselves and each other when forming these relationships is a good thing.”
Blaming the victim
Another major issue highlighted in the strategy is the prevailing attitudes towards violence towards women. Too many people believe women are often to blame for being victimised and this can undermine a prosecution’s case against perpetrators, the report claims.
Brookes said such bias can even affect social workers.
“The risk for social workers is that they may feel that the woman is to blame when what needs to happen is a challenging of the perpetrator,” she said. “In some cases women can be doubly penalised because their partners say that if they report the violence to social services, the social worker will come take their children away,” she said.
“But then if she does actually contact social services, she might be too scared to leave her partner, as advised, and they can then say she isn’t taking action to protect her children and risks having them taken away. So where a woman is just very scared and feels unable to act, she may be perceived as being uncooperative by social services. In some cases there are agencies that are more punitive than supportive.”