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Domestic violence and young people

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It can have a negative impact on their development, wellbeing and risk-taking behaviours.

SafeLives is running the third of its Spotlights series from now to the middle of March.

This one will focus on the experiences of young people (aged 13 to 17 years) affected by domestic violence and the professionals who support them.

The aim is to answer questions such as: how can professionals adapt their approach to meet the needs of young people? how does a young person’s experience of domestic violence differ to an adult’s? and what are the best ways to support young people who harm without criminalising them?

Studies have shown that a young person’s exposure to domestic violence within the home is one of various adverse childhood experiences that can have a negative impact on their development, wellbeing and risk-taking behaviours.

It can also increase their vulnerability to future experiences of domestic violence – both as a victim in their own intimate relationships and as a young person who harms.

SafeLives’ national dataset found that 93 per cent of young people exposed to domestic violence are often at home when the abuse is occurring, and that 46 per cent report being directly harmed by the abuser.

The effects of this exposure are not insignificant: 22 per cent reported experiencing anxiety and depression.

SafeLives’ insights data also tells us that 24 per cent of those exposed to domestic violence demonstrated harmful behaviours towards others, and in 61 per cent of cases this was directed towards their mothers.

For young people experiencing abuse in their intimate relationships, the abuse is more likely to be from a current partner (61 per cent) than an ex-partner (30 per cent).

However, young survivors, practitioners, academic researchers and policy makers say that hope is not lost for our young people.

Where holistic interventions provide early support to young people who experience abuse, both as a victim and a young person who harms, the risk of further abuse can be reduced and behaviours and attitudes about their relationships and themselves can change for the better.

Through a combination of blogs, short films and podcasts, SafeLives will be posting the latest research, practical resources for professionals working with young people, practitioner advice/guidance and young people’s inspiring testimonies.

You will have the chance to interact with experts around the UK in a webinar on 3 March – from 1-2pm – and a Twitter Q&A on 15 March from 1-2pm – using the hashtag #SafeYoungLives.

Earlier studies by SafeLives have shown that disabled women are twice as likely to experience domestic abuse and are also twice as likely to suffer assault and rape.

Yet SafeLives’ data shows that nationally only 3.9 per cent of referrals were for disabled victims, significantly lower than the SafeLives recommendation of 16 per cent or higher.

The research also shows low referral rates for disabled people into domestic abuse services.

The second of the Spotlights series, run in October and November 2016, focussed on the challenges facing professionals working with disabled people experiencing abuse. It asked what we can do to enable disabled people’s access to domestic abuse support and to multi-agency risk assessment conferences (Maracs), and how can we make sure they become – and stay – safe?

The first of the Spotlights series, which ran in July and August 2016,  focussed on the challenges facing professionals working with older people experiencing abuse. What can we do to reach older victims? How can we make sure they become – and stay – safe?

On average, older victims experience abuse for twice as long before seeking help as those aged under 61 and nearly half have a disability. Yet older clients are hugely underrepresented among domestic abuse services.

You can read the findings, as well as policy and practice recommendations, in this report: Safe Later Lives.

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