by Noel Baker
The Irish Examiner, Thursday 20th November 2014
Children are increasingly witness to abusive relationships between their parents, with figures from the support group AMEN indicating almost 700 children are living in family homes where domestic abuse is occurring.
The statistics from the organisation, which helps male victims of domestic abuse, also show that 2,048 disclosures of physical abuse were made to its services last year, including being bitten, hit, kicked, and even stabbed.
The group also received 2,859 disclosures of verbal abuse, including regular name-calling, and 2,846 disclosures of psychological abuse. In all, 86% of contacts were from men.
The group’s annual report for 2013 charted, for the first time, the presence of children in the domestic settings in which abuse was said to have taken place.
According to the report, 741 men disclosed to support staff that there were children in their families.
“Many of these men had more than one child, with one man having 10 children with his violent and abusive spouse,” the report outlined. “These men spoke about their fears and concerns for their children. They often state that their children are the reason they stay in the violent relationship. Many men will talk about the worries they have regarding the future for their children.”
Of those who disclosed there are children in their families, 1,240 children were living apart from their father, while 698 children were in family homes where domestic abuse was taking place.
Also last year, 70 individuals said their children had been abused by their current or former spouses or partners through sexual, physical and emotional abuses or neglect.
A total of 4,868 contacts were received by AMEN last year from 2,263 individuals, with 1,694 new cases during 2013. The number of repeat contacts also increased. Of those who said they had been in a situation of domestic abuse, 27% said they had spoken about their experiences with a medical professional, while 37% had contacted a solicitor and 36% had logged at least one incident of domestic abuse with gardaí. Regarding the AMEN helpline, 80% of calls were deemed to be crisis calls.
AMEN staff fear children could bear long-lasting psychological scars if they witness domestic abuse. The report shows 4,580 disclosures last year were made about children witnessing abuse, with 79 individuals, through 841 disclosures, claiming their children had witnessed their mother physically attack their father. Some 373 individuals said their children had witnessed their current or former partners or wives verbally abusing them, while 88 people said children had witnessed psychological abuse.
AMEN Confidential Helpline operates 9am-5pm, Monday to Friday: 046 9023718.