Children, Young People & Domestic Abuse

We support up to 400 children directly in a year, and indirectly up to 1000 children and young people via our practical and emotional support of their mothers as well as our programmes delivery in schools and the community. We work across the Belfast, Lisburn and South Down area, including Ballynahinch, Carryduff, Downpatrick and Newcastle.

1 in 7 children under the age of 18 live with domestic abuse in the UK each year and now more than ever children are acknowledged as equal victims of domestic abuse, not just witnesses. 90% of children are in the same or next room when domestic abuse takes place. 

Domestic abuse and parental separation qualify as adverse childhood experiences, which can contribute to long term difficulties and challenges for future generations. Domestic abuse interventions have been developing alongside the growing body of research and work that tells us about trauma; developmental trauma, intergenerational trauma and complex and compounded trauma as well as attachment and the impact of trauma on attachment.

We work to support mothers and their children from pregnancy right through to adulthood.  We meet children and young people at every age and stage of life and at many different points in their experience of domestic abuse. Our very experienced and well-trained workers are specialists in the impact of domestic abuse on children, young people and the mother child relationship. 

We have all kinds of services, including one to one support for 4+ years, schools workshops, peer group support for 8+ years and baby, toddler and key stage one activities too. All of our refuges have playrooms and run immediate interventions for babies and children when they arrive and continue to live in refuge. 

Domestic abuse and Covid-19 lockdowns in Northern Ireland

We are very aware that children and young people have experienced higher levels of domestic abuse whilst living through two strict lockdowns in Northern Ireland in 2020 and 2021, as well as prolonged periods of isolation and being cut off from support networks and potential help seeking channels.

“Sometimes our first and greatest dare is asking for support” – Brene Brown

We recently produced an animation capturing the voices of children who have lived through abuse during the lockdowns you can watch Lonely Lockdowns below.

Our Approach

We have established a clear model of trauma informed practice, that draws upon the priorities of the organization over the last forty years as well as pulling from excellent children’s interventions around the world, such as the Harlem Children’s Zone.

“Recovery can only take place within the context of relationships; it cannot take place in isolation” – Judith Lewis Herman

We have a children’s service that is ‘On the ground and all around’ believing that at whatever age or stage a child encounters us we have an intervention that is appropriate for them.

“Safety is not the absence of threat…it is the presence of connection” – Dr Gabor Maté

More information about our services for children can be seen below.

Our work

We work with children and young people of all ages across the Belfast and Lisburn area: 

  • 1-2-1 work 
  • Peer group support for teenagers and 8-12 years 
  • Key Stage One peer group support during school holidays 
  • Toddlers & Wobblers – a weekly group for mums and their 0-3year old child(ren) 

We also offer Healthy Relationships workshops for schools and community groups and training for teachers and youth and children’s workers and childcare practitioners. 

If you have any queries about these services or workshops or training please contact or the main office on 028 9066 6049. 

Our spaces

Each of our refuge accommodations is equipped with a lovely bright playroom for children and their mums to use. We run groups, 1-2-1 work as well as support shared play and care for children if mum has a lot on.  There are lots of toys for all ages and space created for children to relax and feel at home – the playrooms are happy safe places for children to come and be themselves. 

At our resource centre we have the Hub which is a suite of rooms used for therapeutic work with all ages in 1-2-1 and group formats.

2021 saw the Hub undergo refurbishment. Take a look at what it looks like now below.

Our children and young people’s team are always busy holding activities or days out for the children and young people in refuge or in the community.

“I am not defined by my scars but by the incredible ability to heal” – Lemm Sissay

Click through below to see some of the fun we’ve had throughout 2021, including Halloween parties, trips out to forests and parks, creative play in the gardens, and relaxation sessions.

Mothers, domestic abuse & children

Domestic abuse affects children without a doubt and many mothers are upset and seek help for their children often before getting help for themselves.  In Women’s Aid we work with both mother and child, and sometimes together.   

Often perpetrators can use the children to keep contact with the mum, and sustain abuse even if a mother has taken the steps to be safe and leave the relationship/family home. 

Contact with the child/via the child can be very distressing and there are various ways to get support via Women’s Aid with that and there are good resources via the local domestic abuse partnerships.

Abuse is about power and control and contact with and via a child is often use to keep that power and control present and a reminder to a mother, this diagram helps to explain the ways that power and control is exercised via contact, please contact us at Women’s Aid if you need support or have any questions.

Women’s Aid England have great advice on how you can support your children as a mother experiencing domestic abuse which you can find here.

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