Young people can be victims of domestic abuse within their families or in their relationships, or be witnesses to abusive relationships between family members.
The consequences for young people of witnessing or being a victim of domestic violence are serious, as they may have to leave home suddenly with nowhere to go, leaving behind their possessions, disrupting their friendships, and making it difficult to access education, training or employment.
Domestic abuse and housing
Families who are forced to leave their homes to escape domestic abuse can apply to their local authority as homeless.
Domestic abuse or violence is often one of the reasons that young people give for leaving home suddenly. Support services for these young people can help them improve their outcomes by enabling them to:
- understand how to deal with abusive relationships and to develop coping strategies
- understand how to manage their own relationships and risky sexual behaviours and/or situations
- make a safety plan if they need to leave quickly
- know how and where to access help and advice.
Research by the NSPCC in 2009 (available here) concluded that a history of family or peer abuse was associated with greater risk of partner abuse. Young people who access support services may not disclose problems in their relationships, but this area should be considered in the overall assessments of young people’s needs.
Teen partner abuse
Young people can also be victims (and perpetrators) of violence in their own relationships. A study by the NSPCC in 2009 showed a quarter of girls and 18 per cent of boys reported some form of physical partner violence, and one in nine girls and 4 per cent of boys reported severe physical violence. Nearly three-quarters of girls and half of boys reported some form of emotional partner violence. The research also found that for a minority of young people, sexual violence was a more regular feature of their relationships.
Young people's services
Statutory and voluntary agencies can work together to make young people aware of the help and support that is available for them. Services can include:
- accessible information, available in community languages where appropriate
- training for all staff to promote increased understanding of domestic violence issues
- providing in-depth domestic abuse and teenage partner abuse training to front-line staff
- events in the wider community to promote a zero-tolerance agenda.
'Honour' based violence
So-called 'honour-based' abuse and violence (including forced or early marriage) may also be an issue for young people.
LGBT Domestic abuse
Young people may also experience domestic or partner abuse related to their sexual orientation.
Local authorities and partner organisations may also provide support services and domestic violence prevention programmes for perpetrators of domestic abuse and violence.