Forgotten kids: The witnesses to daily abuse; In the first in a series of features as part of Kirklees Domestic Violence Week: Hidden Victims, reporter Sam Casey examines how the issue affects children.
And the NSPCC believes they are the real forgotten victims in cases of domestic abuse.
According to Kirklees police statistics, 3,800 children were present at the 5,000 incidents of domestic violence dealt with in the year to the end of March.
Put another way, more than 10 children every day saw their parents or carers subjecting one another to abuse.
Inspector Andy Leonard, of Kirklees vulnerable victims unit, said: "The volume of incidents is enormous and the emotional impact on the children is enormous, in terms of development, stress, health and school attendance."
It is likely that hundreds, possibly thousands, more children witnessed abuse that was never reported.
According to the Department of Health, about 750,000 children in the UK experience domestic violence every year.
But a 2002 survey of people aged 18 to 24, carried out by the NSPCC, suggested the figure was probably much higher.
More than a quarter of those who were questioned said physical violence sometimes took place between the people who cared for them during childhood. One in 20 said that violence was regular or constant.
And the survey revealed a strong correlation between domestic violence and child maltreatment.
Of those who said they had been physically abused during childhood, 75% had lived with some level of domestic violence.
Of those who said they had been emotionally abused, 71% had seen abuse.
Helen Westerman, NSPCC campaigns co-ordinator for the north of England, said: "Children are the real forgotten victims in domestic violence."
The discrepancy between official figures and unofficial statistics is in large part down to the levels of reporting of domestic violence because of fear on the part of victims.
Miss Westerman said: "It is worrying - we have evidence to suggest that domestic violence is present in two thirds of child deaths and serious injuries."
She added: "The effects on children can vary significantly, even within families - one sibling may be affected differently from another.
"They may be affected physically, if they are hit themselves, they may experience poor health, they may be overweight or underweight because of stress or neglect, they might miss school."
The NSPCC is pushing for domestic violence to form part of the national curriculum.
The charity wants children to be taught about healthy relationships, respect and what to do in cases of abuse.
Miss Westerman said schools played a vital role in addressing domestic violence.
She said: "Children who are affected should speak to somebody they trust and that's usually a teacher.
"Our advice to children living with domestic violence would be tell someone and don't look at it as your fault."
The police have recognised the important role of schools in the fight against domestic violence.
As part of Domestic Violence Week, a DVD is being circulated to year eight children, with information and advice about domestic violence.
For more information about how domestic violence affects children, visit www.nspcc.org.uk The free, confidential Childline number is 0800 1111.
* DIRE EFFECT: Children can be left traumatised
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|Publication:||Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)|
|Date:||Sep 28, 2009|
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