SafeLives calls on Government to invest in mental health support for children living with domestic abuse

On World Mental Health Day, new data from UK domestic abuse charity SafeLives highlights the devastating mental health impact of domestic abuse on children – who are too often ‘hidden’ from the support they need.

SafeLives’ 2019 Children’s Insights data, which is collected from children accessing specialist domestic abuse support services, found that a third (32%) of children living with domestic abuse reported mental health impacts. Of these, just under half (47%) have anxiety, 28% have problems sleeping, and 23% have feelings of shame or responsibility for the abuse. 3.5% have planned or attempted suicide.

*name changed

At 11 I took my first overdose, at 12 I self-harmed for the first time, at 15 I threw myself off a wall, at 17 I took a second overdose and at 35 I lay in the road and hoped the pain would end. I wanted to be noticed. I wanted my Dad to get help. I wanted someone to ask me how I felt or why I was behaving the way I was.


These heart-breaking findings echo what survivors tell us every day; that children do not simply “witness” domestic abuse, they experience it too and are therefore victims in their own right. Often we ignore that until their coping strategies become severe, then we try to tackle the coping strategy, not the problem causing them harm in the first place.

No child should have to grow up in an atmosphere of fear. For those who do, there needs to be specialist, wraparound support that meets the needs of the whole family. Children should not be left to deal with the mental health impact of domestic abuse alone – but all too often that’s exactly what is happening.

We urge the Government to recognise children as victims in their own right in the Domestic Abuse Bill, and ensure they implement a full statutory duty on local authorities to commission the specialist services children and their families urgently need – alongside further investment in CAMHS

Suzanne Jacob OBE, Chief Executive of SafeLives

Read the Report

Latest and past data about specialist children’s domestic abuse services

Children and young people Insights dataset

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