Supporting families through domestic abuse

For those of you wDA scriptho have not worked with us before, welcome. The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children is here to end child abuse.

We want to share the views, opinions and experiences of a family dealing with domestic abuse and how we helped to support them.

Like many eight and 10 year olds, Ben and George really looked forward to watching their local football team play at weekends. In fact the whole family were Dundee United fans and followed their team faithfully. Ben and George and their mum, Carla, would either listen to the radio with anticipation or jump for joy if it was being shown on TV. But whether their team won or lost, they also knew what was going to happen when their dad returned home.

Lying in bed at night, Ben and George would wait in fear for the key to turn, and within minutes their dad would be violently beating their mum. As she screamed and cried, their dad yelled and swore. Shaking, Ben and George would creep to the top of the stairs, huddled together, and watch through the banisters, too frightened to do or say anything. Eventually all would go quiet and they would creep back to bed. The next morning it was as if nothing had happened – their dad was cheery and chatty.

Confused and scared, both boys became very disruptive at school and their work began to suffer. Their headteacher suspected that some problem at home might be causing this and decided to contact the NSPCC Treatment and Therapeutic Services.

It has now been over a year since the NSPCC started helping Ben, George, Carla and dad. The family has come on so much from when they first went to one of the counselling sessions. Initially the boys thought that they were to blame and Carla had terribly low confidence and self-esteem and would often wear a scarf and a long-sleeved jumper to cover her cuts and bruises. At the beginning Dave said: “I was in denial but when I saw the damage it had done to my family, I had to admit it to myself. My violent behaviour had to change if I wanted to save my marriage and keep my family together.”

Regular play sessions were set up for Ben and George where they found it easier to talk about their pain and fears through drawing, talking through puppets, messing about in the sand and using specially designed exercises on paper and the computer. Both boys felt very angry towards their dad and were sad to see their mum so hurt. They were scared and this eventually led to aggressive behaviour – copying dad’s behaviour is common in children even if they don’t realise it themselves.”

There is evidence that many violent adults experienced domestic violence as children.

Gradually the children’s nightmares disappeared, Ben’s stuttering stopped and even George stopped chewing his nails.

This case study draws on real examples from NSPCC services, but does not describe a specific case

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