Helping children & young people to understand the impact of domestic abuse
By Alexander Evans – Children & Young Persons Outreach Worker
Imagine how upsetting it must be for a little girl to listen to her parents shouting and screaming at each other while she plays upstairs. Imagine how frightening and confusing it must be to see one of your parents hitting or threatening the other. Imagine if this happened every day.
How would you feel? Angry? Sad? Withdrawn? How would you act? How would you know things at home are making you feel and act the way you do?
These are just some of the questions we can begin to answer with the help of films like ‘Ioan’s Story’.
Ioan’s Story is a short film we’ve created at Llamau to help children, young people and professionals understand more about the impact of domestic abuse. The film came together with the help of two young boys who’d both experienced domestic abuse in the home and bravely shared an insight into how they felt during that time.
I find it really sad to say this but so often children and young people are the forgotten victims of domestic abuse. It’s quite common for people to fall into the trap of thinking that children do not hear or see the things that happen at home, so they don’t consider the fact that children need their own form of support. Often children will feel as if they are walking on eggshells, living with a degree of fear and uncertainty about what could happen next and being aware of an atmosphere within the home.
Young minds often create distorted images and scenarios of what’s going on around them, so it’s not uncommon for them to imagine things to be worse than what they are or down play the severity of something very serious. They internalise what they’re seeing, hearing and feeling in ways that don’t always add up to what is actually going on, which can cause them to feel confused and act out in different ways.
That’s why films like Ioan’s Story are so important. It allows us as Children and Young Persons Outreach Workers to initiate conversations about a number of things that might be relevant to a wide audience of young people. Showing a young person a film like this may help them open up to us about the emotions they’re feeling whilst allowing them to understand how they’re connected to their circumstances. It can subtly challenge the young people to consider whether their reality and past experience is ‘normal’ as often children will say “it was just normal, I had no reason to think it wasn’t.”
We live in such a diverse world now, so we wanted to make sure this film felt relevant to more young people and didn’t limit us when attempting to stimulate conversations. For example, in the film, Ioan’s friend talks about his mother and her girlfriend, addressing same sex relationships. Ioan’s story also clearly shows that anyone can be the victim of domestic abuse.
Using the film we can also unpick a young person’s understanding of their own safety in the home. It is so important children and young people know how to keep themselves safe should something happen that puts them at risk of harm.
I am so proud of this film and I feel like it couldn’t have come at a better time.
As a team we are seeing more and more young people being impacted by one parent using the pandemic as a way to inflict further abuse upon the other parent. Some parents are blaming Covid as the reason they’re not turning up to agreed contact times but are then claiming they’re being kept away from their children when the other parent has to self-isolate with them.
We’re also seeing a lot of reports to the police where one parent is claiming the other parent is breaking lockdown restrictions, which is causing a lot of uncertainty, stress and at times – fear. There’s no denying we’re living in a very different world right now and children and young people need us now more than ever before.
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