Domestic abuse is a harrowing and deeply troubling issue that affects families globally.

While much focus has rightfully been placed on the immediate impact on abused adults, the enduring consequences on children in the UK often go unnoticed.

The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 created a legal definition of domestic abuse. In summary, domestic abuse is where:

  1. both the person who is carrying out the behaviour and the person to whom the behaviour is directed towards are aged 16 years or over
  2. both persons are “personally connected” (including ex-partners and family members)

You do not have to be living with the person who is being abusive to you.

Children who see, hear or experiences the effects of domestic abuse and are related to the person who is being abused, or the person causing harm, are now legally considered as victims in their own right. It does not matter whether the child is present during a violent incident or not, as the effects of an abusive relationship will be experienced anyway, for instance through the tone and words used and actions.

This week’s blog aims to shine a light on the profound effects of domestic abuse on children in the Somerset, offering insights and solutions to address the silent suffering endured by these young individuals.

Emotional trauma

Fact: Children exposed to domestic abuse in the UK face an increased risk of enduring emotional trauma similar to symptoms found in victims of PTSD.

Children in abusive households navigate an atmosphere of constant tension and fear, leading to profound emotional scars. Anxiety, depression, and PTSD symptoms may persist into adulthood, impacting relationships and self-esteem.

(Source: NSPCC National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children)

Behavioural problems

Fact: Children exposed to domestic abuse are more likely to exhibit aggressive behaviour and conduct disorders, struggling to regulate their emotions and behaviours.

Living in abusive environments prompts coping mechanisms that can hinder the formation of healthy relationships, both with peers and authority figures, impeding social development.

(Source: Women’s Aid UK)

Academic performance

Fact: Children exposed to domestic abuse are more likely to struggle academically, facing a higher risk of lower grades repetition and exam scores.

The stress and anxiety from domestic abuse can significantly impact a child’s ability to focus and learn, perpetuating a cycle of low self-esteem and academic frustration.

(Source: Barnardo’s)

Physical Health Issues

Fact: There is an increased risk of physical health issues, such as headaches and sleep disturbances, in children exposed to domestic abuse.

Stress and trauma experienced in abusive households can manifest in various physical health problems, underscoring the public health concern of domestic abuse.

(Source: Refuge)

Repetition of patterns: breaking the cycle

Fact: Children exposed to domestic abuse are at a higher risk of perpetuating the cycle of abuse in their adult relationships.

Breaking this cycle requires targeted interventions to provide support and break the intergenerational transmission of violence.

(Source: British Journal of Social Work)

Trust and attachment issues

Fact: Children exposed to domestic abuse may struggle with forming secure attachments, leading to trust issues and difficulties in establishing healthy relationships later in life.

Supporting these children requires trauma-informed approaches to help rebuild a sense of security and trust.

(Source: Women’s Aid)

Guilt and self-blame

Fact: Children who witness domestic abuse often blame themselves for the abuse, leading to a range of emotional and psychological issues.

Addressing misplaced guilt is crucial in supporting the emotional well-being of children in abusive households.

(Source: Childnet International)

Breaking the cycle

Recognising the effects of domestic abuse on children is the first step towards providing support and resources for healing. Here are some of the crucial steps Somerset Council are planning, to support children who witness or experience domestic abuse:

  • Raising awareness: Increasing public awareness about the impact of domestic abuse on children in Somerset through awareness campaigns.
    Search: #YouWillBeBelieved  #NoClosedDoors
  • Access to counselling: Supporting children in Somerset, who witness or experience domestic abuse with access to counselling and therapy.
  • Education: Collaborating with Somerset-based educational institutions to incorporate domestic abuse awareness into the school curriculum.
  • Supportive communities: Fostering supportive communities and networks in Somerset for children and families affected by domestic abuse.


Domestic abuse casts a long shadow over the lives of children in Somerset. Acknowledging and addressing the effects of domestic abuse on these young lives is crucial to breaking the cycle of abuse.

It’s time for collective action to provide a brighter, safer, and healthier future for the silent sufferers of domestic abuse in Somerset.

If you are experiencing domestic abuse, worried about someone you know, or are concerned about the impact of your behaviour towards others, then help is available on the Somerset Domestic Abuse website or by telephoning 0800 69 49 999, between 8am – 8pm, 7 days a week.

In an emergency you should always dial 999. If you are worried that an abuser may overhear your call you can remain silent, tap the phone and dial 55 when prompted by the operator who will send help.

If you are deaf, hard of hearing or speech-impaired you can register with Once registered you will be able to send a text to 999 if you require help in an emergency.

About this article

May 8, 2024

Michael Wallis

Advice and support