SafeLives research: Children living with domestic abuse

20th November 2017

New research finds when they start school, at least one child in every classroom will have lived with domestic abuse since they were born.  On the UN Day of the Child, it is vital we respond to this research to protect the thousands of children growing up in households of fear.  

National domestic abuse charity, SafeLives, announces extensive new research on the number of children growing up in abusive households, and the experiences of those children. SafeLives estimates that as children start primary school, there will be at least one child in every classroom who has lived with domestic abuse since they were born. They have lived with abuse for the whole of their young lives, and know nothing else.  

Diana Barran, Chief Executive of SafeLives, said  

"It's vital we recognise the huge scale of domestic abuse in this country – including how many children are impacted by it and what that means for them. It doesn't have to be physical. It doesn't have to be aimed directly at them. Domestic abuse creates a home where everyone treads on eggshells, living in fear of the perpetrator. To think of how many children go home scared each and every day should make all of us absolutely determined to achieve change. 

"SafeLives has the largest datasets on domestic abuse in the UK and is committed to using these to drive evidence-based policy to stop domestic abuse, for good. We urgently need to reach these children and help them become safe and supported to stop the cycle of abuse." 

The research shows the impact on children: half found it difficult to sleep; a third believed the abuse was their fault. The same children exhibit higher rates of behavioural problems and engage in more risky behaviour, making them more vulnerable to other abuse or harm as they grow up.  

Many of these children are invisible to services. The data shows that in 40% of those families referred to domestic abuse services, the children were not on the radar of children's services.  

Adam, 15, said: “I wasn’t offered any help at the time but I’ve had nightmares about what I saw and heard. I think because mum and dad weren’t together anymore and mum was getting help they thought I didn’t need any.”  

SafeLives recommends the roll out of high quality training for all professionals who engage with children, as well as a response that holds the perpetrator to account.  

Diana Barran continues:  

"The person causing harm to these young children is the perpetrator. We must provide support for the rest of the family and also focus on challenging them and holding them to account. We only make families safe today and tomorrow by tackling the root of the problem – the perpetrator". 

Read our reseach and full briefing paper


About SafeLives 

We are a national charity dedicated to ending domestic abuse, for good. We combine insight from services, survivors and statistics to support people to become safe, well and rebuild their lives. Since 2005, SafeLives has worked with organisations across the country to transform the response to domestic abuse, with over 60,000 victims at highest risk of murder or serious harm now receiving co-ordinated support annually.  

No one should live in fear. It is not acceptable, not inevitable, and together – we can make it stop.   

Every year, two million people experience domestic abuse. For every person being abused, there is someone else responsible for that abuse: the perpetrator. And all too often, children are in the home and living with the impact.  

Domestic abuse affects us all; it thrives on being hidden behind closed doors. We must make it everybody’s business.   

For interviews or more information, please contact Penny East, Head of Communications, on 07818593562 or at