The overlap between domestic and child abuse is estimated at between 45-70% and enquiries into child deaths indicate that violence towards women may coincide with their children being at greatest risk of suffering significant harm or death. Research has also indicated a raised incidence of child sexual abuse in households where the woman is subject to violence.
Coping with abuse can adversely affect a woman's ability to meet her children's emotional needs and can potentially put children at risk of neglect. This is likely to be elevated where there are additional problems and stressors within the family, particularly in relation to addiction issues, chaotic lifestyles, homelessness and mental health issues. The vulnerability of children within these situations is heightened and requires careful assessment. Some groups of children have additional needs: for example, children affected by disability, children from minority ethnic groups or for whom English is not their first language.
Whilst the existence of domestic abuse per se does not necessarily require the instigation of child protection procedures, it should significantly increase concern by any professional given the evidence of overlap between the abuse of women and the abuse of children.
If a victim is identified as at high risk of serious harm then it is likely that there is also a high risk to the child and swift action should be taken by following child protection procedures. If there are no significant current indicators of risk of harm to the adult victim, there still may be an impact or risk to the child and therefore it is advisable to still assess the risk to the child. This should include an assessment of the extent to which they are exhibiting signs of distress, emotional disturbance or behavioural difficulties which may be associated with domestic abuse. The possibility of direct harm to the child by abuse from the perpetrator should also be investigated. There should be vigilance around issues such as threats to harm children, emotional manipulation of them, destruction of toys, harm to pets etc which indicate a propensity for harm. Assessment of developmental progress should also be undertaken to explore possible negative impacts of abuse.
Risk assessment tools and guidance
Young person's DASH (from SafeLives)
Child risk indicator matrix (from Barnardo's)
Next steps guide (of general application although it references some Oxfordshire documents)