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Victims Commissioner publishes report on children's experience of domestic abuse

Date:8 APR 2020
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The Victims' Commissioner, Dame Vera Baird QC, has published a report entitled Sowing the Seeds: Children's experience of domestic abuse and criminalityThe report explores the overlap between children's experience of domestic abuse and children's offending behaviour. 

The report starts with a quote from Sir Desmond Tutu: "There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they're falling in."

In the report, Dame Vera Baird QC states: "We are publishing this review in the midst of the global Coronavirus pandemic. The UK is in lockdown, with families required to stay at home and only venture out when absolutely necessary. These measures, whilst containing the spread of the virus, present an unprecedented risk for victims of domestic abuse, who are compelled to stay within their home with abusive partner or family member. Together with those responsible for delivering domestic abuse support services, I am concerned levels of abuse will grow sharply, with frontline services struggling to cope. Neither should this be viewed as a short-term problem, easily resolved when life returns to normal. An important finding of my review is that children who are exposed to domestic abuse are not casual bystanders. The impacts on children of living in a household with domestic abuse are huge and far reaching. Before the coronavirus dominated the headlines, we were focused on the need to deal with another virus afflicting all parts of our society: a surge in gang related crime, appalling violence inflicted by children onto other children through knife crime, as well as so called “county lines” dealing in drugs, with children pulled into dangerous criminal activity."

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She continues: "My review finds there is an overlap between children’s experience of domestic abuse and children’s offending behaviour. Children in Need Census Data from the Department of Education shows a quarter of children who were identified as having socially unacceptable behaviour also have identified concerns about domestic abuse of a parent or carer. Practitioners who work directly to support children out of gang related activity tell us the children and young people they work with commonly come from backgrounds of domestic abuse. We heard that children who experience domestic abuse may seek alternative relationships outside of the home, leaving them vulnerable to sexual and criminal exploitation. Children in alternative school provision, those in unregulated care homes and children sent far from home are also more vulnerable. Practitioners told us vulnerability makes children more attractive to criminal gangs and more susceptible to criminal and sexual exploitation."

The full report can be read here.