Practice blog

Stories from Young Survivors: Holly

The following story is one of several accounts shared with us by a group of young people; all have experienced domestic abuse and have been supported by the Ypvas working at the Young People Violence Advisor (Ypva) Service in South Tyneside. They have shared their individual stories to raise awareness of domestic abuse in the hope that victims and services will be inspired to make change. For an audio version of this blog, visit our Soundcloud profile or scroll to the bottom of the page. 

*Names have been changed to protect identities

Where I am now…

Looking back so much has changed since I worked with Claire, (from aged 17 to now aged 20.) I remember the first day I met Claire, I was reluctant because I had already attended ‘options’. I didn’t think this was helpful to me at all, it was all older women. Most of them had been referred there from social workers and had children so I felt like my problems weren’t as bad as theirs. I also couldn’t speak much and didn’t want everyone knowing in the group. However, when I got offered one to one with Claire it was the best thing I’d done. This was so important for me, everything was confidential and I went from having no help from anyone to being fully supported.

When I look back at when I first met Claire and to where I am at now I am quite proud of the way things have changed and so grateful for all her help. The first memory is mine and Claire’s first visit together, we got a milkshake and talked through things slowly, I didn’t feel pushed and over the next couple of weeks we done a lot of work, not just relationship advice etc but Claire helped me with family situations, housing, work, college, c.v. and more.

When I first met Claire I knew my relationship wasn’t great, but all I could see was in my eyes my boyfriend was perfect for me and I still loved him. I didn’t think anything would change that at the time. Looking back now although I’m still with the same boyfriend 4 years later I’m completely different; I don’t think I ever would’ve been if I’d refused the work with Claire just like I almost done. Back then I had no-one, no interest in anything apart from him, my whole life felt as though it was put on hold for him. Although I didn’t want it to be this way I didn’t know what else I could do until I talked .Talking to Claire and knowing somebody is there for you and who understands makes you feel so much better, but most of all makes you see sense.

I never thought I would be able to be the way I was with my boyfriend the way it had been at the start and that’s one of the many reasons I knew I couldn’t stay with him. The only option I thought I had was to leave. I gained confidence and opened my eyes to what was really going on, as soon as that happened, everything changed for the better. Slowly things he was doing and saying after being with Claire or doing with her, I would go home and notice everything more than I had been. I started to question him and started to change by putting up barriers up.

Before I started meeting with Claire I remember wanting to do this but never could’ve. I grew stronger, felt stronger and eventually after every time I seen Claire and I gained a lot more confidence in myself, because of this I was able to stop a lot of things happening at the time and was standing up for myself, not letting things escalate so far. Over the next couple of month I felt like a much stronger person. There was times it felt so hard doing this and pushing him away (into line) after I had allowed it by a way and not stood up for myself for so long. However it was all worth it. All the work I had done with Claire I couldn’t go back and forget all of that, I knew that knowledge now and that’s what gave me enough strength to believe it and do something about it.

Now, I am a carer; I have just finished my support and teaching learning apprenticeship. I’m doing my driving lessons and have a lovely 2-bedroom flat. When I first met Claire I didn’t work, didn’t go to college/training and I had just left supported accommodation, I had nothing really. I’m a lot happier in myself now and in the relationship, some people would say to me ‘leave him, you can do better, he will never change’ but slowly I can say it has, something I thought never would happen to, and I think that’s why it was always so hard to leave because I knew it would be for good. It was so hard to do it, but worth it and I couldn’t thank Claire enough for the help and support that she has given me.

Just like the age I was 16, young, left home, no money, not many interests, not many friends around and in a violent relationship people don’t know who to turn to I think if everyone was in a position to have a one to one then they should. The difference it made to me is massive, I would still be on rock bottom now, hurt or a lot worse.

I’m happy now and I thank everyone who supported me during the times I went through, I could’ve been seriously hurt and lived a life of the same thing going on, meeting that first time with Claire has changed me forever.

Listen to an audio version of this blog:

Keep an eye on our Spotlight page for more information and resources around supporting young people experiencing domestic abuse. 

Stories from Young Survivors: Jill

The following story is one of several accounts shared with us by a group of young people; all have experienced domestic abuse and have been supported by the Ypvas working at the Young People Violence Advisor (Ypva) Service in South Tyneside. They have shared their individual stories to raise awareness of domestic abuse in the hope that victims and services will be inspired to make change. For an audio version of this blog, visit our Soundcloud profile or scroll to the bottom of the page.

*Names have been changed to protect identities

It was May 2012 when I first met him, I was 14 and he was 16. I had spoken to him for a little while before meeting him. He had sent me a friend request on Facebook and I accepted. We got talking to each other and not long after we got talking, we arranged to meet up.

He didn’t look like the kind of person who I would be interested in, but the first day that I met him, he seemed different to what I thought he was going to be like, he was so lovely and we had a laugh and just clicked. Anyways, that day was over and I went home but continued to talk to him and meet him .

After a few months of being together we ended up with each other’s Facebook passwords but at that time I thought this was a normal thing to do. Not long after, he began to go on my Facebook quite often until it turned into him being on it every day.

We often bickered with each other about past relationships and I think he used to make me jealous a lot of the time by talking about his ex-girlfriends to me and used to tell me about his sexual relationships with people, which I didn’t care about but he wanted to tell me anyways.

There was one day when he told me it was over because I had apparently been speaking to one of his friends, which I hadn’t. Anyways we had sorted things out that night, but a week or so later he had finished with me for good, telling me it wasn’t my fault which I obviously felt like it was. We ended up getting back together and things were fine for a while, or what I thought was fine, but he still constantly checked my Facebook. All of the above happened in the first 6 months of our relationship.

In February 2013 I was late on my period but I didn’t think anything of it at that point. He kept going on at me to take a pregnancy test and I didn’t want to but it finally got the point where I felt like I needed to. I went to savers on my way to school one morning and just bought a cheap test from there. I went to school and took it just as my first lesson was starting. When I seen the 2 lines come up on the test, I had never felt so scared in my entire life.

I went to his that night and told him and showed him the test. He seemed happy. I went home that night and told my mam, who just sat in tears. I was her 15 year old daughter, still at school who come home and told her she was pregnant.

The day of my scan I received a horrible message from him telling me that he wasn’t coming and that it was all my fault because I didn’t give him the money for this fare. I just sat there and cried and thought to myself how could he possibly do this to me, how could he miss seeing our child for the very first time. I felt like it was all my fault for not giving him the money to come to the hospital. He wasn’t very supportive at all throughout my pregnancy, he never gave me any money to get anything for our child, I had to rely on my mam for everything which I shouldn’t have had to. He would have rather spent every penny he got on the drugs which he took.

When our daughter was born, he still didn’t support me. He stayed at mine with us for a few days then told me he was going to see his dad as he hadn’t seen him for a while, but he never came back and he told me that it was because he was too “off his face” to come back and see us.

There was one time when my daughter got to about 4/5 months old, when they start to pull hair like any normal child does. She grabbed my hair and I said “ouch”, joking with her and he slapped her in the head and told her not to do that because it was naughty and that she should learn not to do things like that. Another time, I wanted to go to the shop and X didn’t want me to; I was getting my daughter strapped into her pram and he come storming through and pinned me up against the wall. I hadn’t got the chance to strap my daughter in properly and she ended up falling out of her pram, to which X decided it was all my fault and that I had hurt her and that I was a horrible mam for doing that to her.

He used to think that I fancied one of the lads who worked at the shop next to his, so every time I went I constantly got accused of things, even if I was only 5 minutes. My life was constantly like this. He used to have people watching my every move. I would get messages when I was out shopping saying that he knows where I am and what I’m doing and things. I began to realise that he was making my life an absolute nightmare. He used to make me think that I hadn’t been paid as much money as what I should have, because he would go to the cash point and take money out and then come back and tell me that there was only a certain amount that had been put into my bank. We used to finish quite a lot but I felt like I couldn’t be without him.

It got to the point where I knew that this wasn’t right. I used to have to go without food for days just to make sure that my daughter got fed as he wouldn’t give me any money for food. He used to lock me in his bedroom so I couldn’t go anywhere. He would lock me in his house and take my daughter from me.

There was a time that  he decided to go through my phone messages from years back and he didn’t take to them very kindly. He told me to come in his bedroom where he decided to pin me down and begin to hit me. I thought he was going to kill me! His dad must have heard my screams and come running in and pulled him off me, but I didn’t get no comfort from his dad, all he said was “come on son, she’s not worth the lock up charge”. I was horrified. I still forgave him after this until I finally had to give up on our relationship.

I still allowed him to see my daughter, which wasn’t a constant thing as he just picked and chose when he wanted her. One day I picked her up from his house and she fell asleep in my arms because he had made her so drowsy from the cannabis that he had been smoking round her.

I’d seen my health visitor the next day and she told me not to take her back and got in touch with social services, who said that my daughter was not allowed back to that address. He went off it with me for a while and I used to get abusive messages all of the time but I just blocked him on everything and he finally gave up. He’s now seen our child once in the space of 2 and a half year and I don’t really think he cares.

When my daughter was stopped from seeing him was when I got in touch with Claire and Hollie. At first I was so nervous to do the course as I didn’t know what to expect but they were so lovely. Hollie was my main worker, I used to meet her every Wednesday and we would do some work in her car. She taught me about healthy relationships, and how X’s mind was working while he was doing these things to me. I explained to her that when he used to physically hurt me, it never used to bother me, it was the mental torture he put me through which hurt me more than anything. Although there won’t ever be any excuse for what he done to me, I got some sort of sense as to what was going on in his head to why he used to do it. Hollie and Claire both made me see what went wrong and I can’t thank them enough for the work which they done with me because I now know the signs to look out for in case this should happen again. My head was messed up when I was finally free from him and Hollie and Claire helped to fix me. They’ve inspired me to train to do what they do or something along them lines.

I am studying hard at college to get where I want to be, I have my own home and 2 beautiful children to be proud of so I’m glad I got away when I did because I would hate to think where I would be if I didn’t. I think it is so important that anyone in the same situation or similar should speak to a service like this before it’s too late and I hope my story can inspire others to speak out!

Listen to an audio version of this blog:

Keep an eye on our Spotlight page for more information and resources around supporting young people experiencing domestic abuse. 

Stories from Young Survivors: Jenny

The following story is one of several accounts shared with us by a group of young people; all have experienced domestic abuse and have been supported by the Ypvas working at the Young People Violence Advisor (Ypva) Service in South Tyneside. They have shared their individual stories to raise awareness of domestic abuse in the hope that victims and services will be inspired to make change. For an audio version of this blog, visit our Soundcloud profile or scroll to the bottom of the page. 

*Names have been changed to protect identities

Everything couldn’t have been more perfect, like a normal close family. I was the youngest sibling, I had an older sister and brother, my mam and her partner. My mam’s partner was controlling with my mam and he used to throw her around and chuck cups and objects at her. I hated him.

When I was 11 my mam tragically passed away due to cardio-myopathy. She had a heart transplant 6 and a half years before this that helped prolong her life but she knew her time was due to leave us. When my mam was gone, he instantly took control and tried to tell me and my sister what to do, such as cleaning the house, ironing and washing the dishes. My sister acted as my mam for a while but she couldn’t take it anymore.  He got into a relationship not even 4 weeks after my mam passed away. She was a druggy just like him.

My sister left home and she went into foster care and I was left with my brother. My brother and I were close but he always used to just hide away in his bedroom so I couldn’t really talk to him. I eventually started running away from home and I would be with my sister. My last attempt running away I was with my sister at her foster carers home - I was there for 2 nights and then I got a placement just down the road from her. I was happy to be near my sister.

This is when I met him.  Me and him had never spoke but my sister had a fancy for him and I used to think he was ugly. Anyhow time moved on, I was happy and content at my placement and still saw my sister every day. Me and him  were just like normal, acting like brother and sister. As time grew, me and I started getting closer and I felt like I could open up to him. He was like my protector if you like. My sister had her new boyfriend so we did still see a lot of each other but we started having our separate days too. I remember being at school on a dinner and I asked my good friend a very strange question. I said “do you think it’s normal to have feelings for someone who you live with in the same home?” Obviously she couldn’t understand my situation but she told me “just go and find out and see if your feelings are real”. When I went home that night I messaged him and I told him how I felt and he replied - he said he liked me too.

I was happy with how the outcome was and we had a secret relationship. I was 14 when I got with him and he was 17 heading on 18. Things were great and nervous because we sneaked around for a while. One day we got caught together and my foster carer knew exactly what was going on. He got kicked out and he went to supported accommodation and I moved into another foster placement the following year due to my foster carer, having lung cancer. Me and him were then open about our relationship. Everything was perfect. I got settled at my new foster carer’s and I loved my new family.  He moved into his own flat so we had our own space too.

About four months after he moved, things just changed. I never noticed at the time. I used to act like his mother for ages and the arguing was constant. He was always out and in debt with drug dealers or locked up - it was quite crazy. He just changed. I blamed myself for a long time thinking it was my fault. Things only got worse. I fell pregnant at 16 years, as soon as I left school. He was happy at first, but it didn’t take long until he was saying it wasn’t his and calling me names and just generally “griefing” me every day.

I moved into my own flat in supported accommodation due to my age, and I didn’t have a lot of support with baby. I pretended everything was ok. One day when I had baby, he never helped with anything but gave me grief and always putting me down. I physically and emotionally couldn’t take it anymore so I cried to the staff, telling them everything that had been going on for years. He always told lies and used to pretend he was going to kill himself so I would run back to him.

Time went on and I got out of the relationship and I met the YPVA Service and I wouldn’t be where I am today without them. I have an excellent bond with the staff and I got support with court orders and much more! I can’t thank them enough….

After 1 and a half years in supported accommodation, I got to go and move into my very own home with my baby. I couldn’t be happier. I no long have any contact with him and I am focussing on my career for me and my baby.

Listen to an audio version of this blog:

Keep an eye on our Spotlight page for more information and resources around supporting young people experiencing domestic abuse. 

LGBT young people's experiences of domestic abuse

Janice Stevenson is a Development office for LGBT Youth Scotland. In this blog, she writes about the work done by the Voice Unheard project to better understand LGBT young people’s understanding, knowledge and experience of domestic violence. For an audio version of this blog, visit our Soundcloud profile or scroll to the bottom of the page.

The Voices Unheard project was established by a group of young people from LGBT Youth Scotland. Using a peer research approach, the group sought to find out lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people’s understanding, knowledge, and experience of domestic abuse in their families and relationships. The findings of this initial investigation have enabled Voices Unheard to engage with service providers and help them to increase their knowledge and understanding of LGBT young people’s support needs when experiencing or witnessing domestic abuse.

The research highlighted a lack of recognition of abuse amongst LGBT young people. Participants were asked about their experiences of controlling behaviour from partners or ex-partners, and although 52% reported having had experienced some form of abusive behaviour from a partner or ex-partner, only 37% of the young people recognised this as abuse. The media often depicts negative portrayals and stereotypes of same-sex relationships, meaning that LGBT young people are not aware of what a healthy LGBT relationship looks like.

Perpetrators of domestic abuse and people who sexually exploit children and young people can and do use stereotypes and gendered expectations as tools of abuse and control; telling LGBT young people that they are ‘not a real' gay man, lesbian woman, bisexual person etc. if they fail to live up to the stereotype. Young people can feel pressured to engage in certain types of sexual activity or to express their sexual orientation or gender identity in stereotypical ways in order to ‘prove’ their LGBT identity, which contributes to the normalising of abuse within LGBT relationships.

As well as experiencing abuse within their own relationships, young people also described their experience of living with domestic abuse, where 61% of the respondents had witnessed some form of abuse in their families. If a young person is witnessing abuse in their families they are less likely to feel safe and confident within their home, creating additional barriers to ‘coming out’. 79% of the young people who took part in the research believed that someone who had witnessed domestic abuse in their family or home would feel less confident to ‘come out’ as a result. It is therefore vital that services and agencies that work with young people experiencing domestic abuse provide safe and positive places for young people to talk about their sexual orientation or gender identity

LGBT young people also face additional barriers to seeking support. They may not be ‘out’ as an LGBT person to family or friends, making it difficult to utilise their own support network. 47.1% of the young people said that fear of homophobia, biphobia or transphobia from service providers would make them less likely to access domestic abuse support services. They also shared concerns about confidentiality; specifically, concerns about being outed by services to family, or through other referrals.

Transgender young people were concerned that services would not be inclusive of them and recommend that clarity about inclusion of transgender and gender variant young people is made clear in literature, websites and promotional materials.

Following their research, and through extensive engagement with the domestic abuse sector in Scotland, Voices Unheard and the LGBT Domestic Abuse Project have developed some key recommendations to help domestic abuse services to be more inclusive. These include;

  • Be clear that your service is inclusive of LGBT people in literature, website and promotional materials
  • Clarity over what support services offer to LGBT people – particularly transgender inclusion
  • Advertise flexible opening hours to accommodate young people who may struggle to access services during office hours
  • Provide remote services, such as telephone, email and online support
  • Provide clear examples of LGBT domestic abuse in case studies/ stories on websites, in literature and promotional materials
  • Access appropriate training – without the correct training, staff may not be able to support LGBT young people in a way that they need
  • Have clear links with other organisations, including LGBT services,  and be able to make referrals
  • Ensure you use gender neutral language at all times, such as using ‘partner’ rather than husband or wife

Further information and resources are available from the LGBT Domestic Abuse Project:

Or from Voices Unheard:

Keep an eye on our Spotlight page for more information and resources around supporting young people experiencing domestic abuse. 

Preventing further harm to children from domestic abuse

Development manager, Di Hunter and Senior Evaluation Officer, Nicola McConnell implement and evaluate services delivered by the NSPCC. In this blog they discuss what they have learnt from this work and also what can be done to prevent further harm to children experiencing domestic abuse, including helping parents to recognise the impact of abuse and providing support to children and the non-abusing parent. For an audio version of this blog, visit our Soundcloud profile or scroll to the bottom of the page.

We welcome SafeLives’ spotlight on children and young people: over and above the increased likelihood that a child who lives with domestic abuse will be injured, the child’s social, psychological, and personal development are also likely to be impacted. Therefore, any responses to domestic abuse must ensure that the safety and wellbeing of the child is prioritised throughout the decision making process.

How are children affected by domestic abuse?

Worrying about family relationships is one of the top three reasons why children contact our Childline counselling service (NSPCC, 2016). It is currently estimated that 1 in 5 children in the UK have been exposed to domestic abuse (Radford et al, 2011). Children in homes where there is domestic abuse are more likely to experience other forms abuse or neglect; and in Scotland, where multiple reasons for holding a child protection case conference are recorded, domestic abuse was a concern for over a third of children on the child protection register (Bentley et al, 2016). Young people can also become involved in their own relationships that are abusive as well as be exposed to domestic abuse within the family home. In both circumstances, the experience can be overwhelming and it can cause long-lasting physical, behavioural, and mental health problems, including an increased risk of experiencing or perpetrating abuse within their own adult relationships. Protecting children from abuse can disrupt children’s social lives in ways that may not be appreciated by adults. For example, moving to safety can result in loss of contact with friends, family members, school and familiar surroundings.  

Helping parents to recognise the impact of domestic abuse on their children

An abusive relationship between parents or carers causes children harm and is in itself child abuse. It is vital that the harm caused by domestic abuse is fully recognised by frontline practitioners, and that this harm is highlighted to parents – who, whether they are a victim or a perpetrator, often assume that if their child is not physically present that they are shielded from the effects of domestic abuse. We found that some fathers attending our Caring Dads: Safer Children services were motivated to improve their relationship with their child’s mother once they understood the impact of their abuse on their child (McConnell et al, 2016). The 17 week programme aims to develop men’s trust and motivation to examine their fathering, develop an understanding of how their behaviour impacts on children and take responsibility for making positive changes.

Support for children and the non-abusing parent

The NSPCC has developed and tested a 10 week programme that helps children and young people aged 7-14 years overcome the effects of domestic abuse - DART® (Domestic Abuse Recovering Together) by improving the parent and child relationship. DART is based on the Talking to my Mum research by the University of Warwick (Humphreys et al, 2006); and is designed for mothers and children who no longer live with the domestic violence perpetrator. It aims to build and develop the mother and child relationship, help them deal with their past, and understand the importance of healthy relationships.  The joint DART group work session lasts two hours. A key feature is that it is divided into two components: the first hour is spent with women and children in the same room doing the same activities together. There is then a break for 10 minutes, after which mothers and children split into separate groups in different rooms where they can focus on discussion and activities specific to their needs, before finally regrouping and sharing learning if appropriate.

Preventing further harm to children from domestic abuse requires multiple approaches: prioritising the needs of children, supporting non-abusive parents, and working with perpetrators to change their behaviour. We also need further investigation of earlier interventions that help individuals to recognise abuse, and if necessary, examine and change their behaviour at an early stage, thus providing safer environments for their children.

Useful resources

The Childline website provides information and advice about domestic abuse for children:

You can also find out more information about domestic abuse and DART on the NSPCC website:

NSPCC guide to DART


Bentley, H., O'Hagan, O, Raff, A. and Bhatti, I. (2016) How safe are our children? The most comprehensive overview of child protection in the UK 2016. London: NSPCC

Humphreys, C., Mullender, A., Thaira, R. and Skamballis, A., ‘Talking to My Mum: Developing communication between mothers and children in the aftermath of domestic violence’, Journal of Social Work (2006), p. 6, 53–63

McConnell, N., Barnard, M., Holdsworth, T. and Taylor, J. (2016) Caring Dads: Safer Children: evaluation report. [London]: NSPCC

NSPCC (2016) Childline annual review 2015/16: It turned out someone did care. London: NSPCC

Radford, L. et al. (2011) Child abuse and neglect in the UK today. London: NSPCC

Keep an eye on our Spotlight page for more insights, content and resources for working with children and young people experiencing domestic abuse