Domestic and Sexual Violence and Abuse

Domestic violence or abuse covers any violent behaviour within a family or relationship. It can include (but is not limited to) emotional, psychological, physical, sexual and financial abuse. Child abuse falls under this category when a family member harms, neglects or bullies a child or young person. The NSPCC estimates that one in five children are exposed to domestic abuse.

Evidence suggests that educational programmes, such as RSE, can help change children’s and young people’s attitudes towards domestic abuse. Prevention through education is an important response that contributes to the well-being of children and young people.

The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety and the Department of Justice have published a strategy for tackling domestic and sexual violence and abuse in Northern Ireland. The strategy’s vision is to have a Northern Ireland society that:

  • does not tolerate domestic and sexual violence in any form;
  • provides effective tailored preventative and responsive services;
  • supports all victims; and
  • holds perpetrators to account.

See the Stopping Domestic and Sexual Violence and Abuse in Northern Ireland Strategy for more information.

This area of the RSE Hub signposts to resources and guidance information for teachers, parents/carers, and children and young people on domestic and sexual violence and abuse. It also signposts to local organisations that can offer confidential advice and support to children and young people, and families.

Primary

Children can be abused at any age and in any environment, so it’s important that they have the knowledge to recognise when they may be at risk and reduce their vulnerability to violence or sexual abuse. Most abused children know their perpetrator, and it may even be another child.

To protect themselves, children should be taught about:

  • safe boundaries and inappropriate touch, and that some parts are private and not for everyone to see, touch or take pictures of;
  • the fact that no-one should ask them to touch someone else’s private parts; and
  • how some secrets, such as secrets about their bodies, are not okay and that they should trust their instincts if they feel uncomfortable about something.

They should also know who to go to if they feel uncomfortable or at risk and that they will never be in trouble for telling a trusted adult about an incident or unpleasant experience. Children should also be aware of their responsibilities to respect the privacy and boundaries of others.

Research shows that preventative work in schools should start early, before attitudes start to become fixed. This work should aim to proactively prevent violence or sexual abuse from featuring in their lives, rather than providing reactive intervention after it happens.

Exploring issues such as domestic and sexual violence and abuse in the classroom may lead to increased numbers of disclosures in schools. Teachers should follow their school’s child protection policy at all times.

Schools should be proactive in establishing links with local agencies, such as Women’s Aid, that work with schools to provide domestic violence training for teachers and support for children. See Women’s Aid Federation Northern Ireland – Local groups for more information.

Useful Links

Here are some links that we think are particularly useful for this topic:

Primary Domestic and Sexual Violence and Abuse Links195 KB - uploaded 01-04-2019

Childline – All about me Key Stage 2 teachers’ packAimed at pupils with special educational needs, this pack uses music, art, drama and multimedia to help pupils identify who they can trust and communicate with when they are feeling unhappy or unsafe - endbullying.org.uk

Women’s Aid Federation Northern Ireland – Primary Schools: Helping HandsThis preventative education programme for primary school pupils aims to inform them of their right to feel safe at all times and develop their self-esteem and confidence - womensaidni.org

Post-Primary

The transition from childhood to adulthood is a complex one that impacts on the social, emotional, psychological, physical and biological development of a young person. As a result, young people who experience domestic abuse do so at a particularly vulnerable point in their lives. According to SafeLives, young people experience the highest rates of domestic abuse of any age group.

Young people also now experience abuse through new technologies. Online platforms have been cited as enabling harassment and other forms of abuse.

Abuse in young people’s relationships doesn’t always mean physical violence. It may be:

  • pressuring a partner into having sex;
  • continually checking up on a partner, for example by accessing their social media accounts;
  • exhibiting controlling behaviour; and
  • presenting unnecessary or irrational jealousy or anger.

Young people should have opportunities to explore the characteristics of abusive relationships in a safe and respectful environment, challenging attitudes and gender stereotypes that can lead to abusive behaviours.

They should consider concepts of power within relationships and why abused partners often stay with their abuser for reasons like financial insecurity or threats to them or their family members. They should also discuss the importance of communication and respect within healthy relationships.

Exploring these issues in the classroom may lead to increased numbers of disclosures in schools. Teachers should follow their school’s child protection policy at all times.

Schools should be proactive in establishing links with local agencies, such as Women’s Aid, that work with schools to provide domestic violence training for teachers and support for children and young people. See Women’s Aid Federation Northern Ireland – Local groups for more information.

Useful Links

Here are some links that we think are particularly useful for this topic:

Post Primary Domestic and Sexual Violence and Abuse Links102 KB - uploaded 01-04-2019

AGENDA - Primary Toolkit

Insync – Year 10 Theme 8: Safety and Managing RiskThis section of our resource covers topics like different forms of abuse and identifying and managing risk - nicurriculum.org.uk

Disrespect NoBodyThe UK Government’s campaign aims to reach a wide audience online, helping young people understand healthy relationships and abuse - disrespectnobody.co.uk

NSPCC – It’s Not OKIncluding lesson plans, films and activities, these resources can help pupils recognise and respond to behaviour linked to issues such as child sexual exploitation - learning.nspcc.org.uk

NSPCC Learning – Making Sense of Relationships Key Stage 4 Lesson Plan 2: Unhealthy RelationshipsThis lesson plan can help pupils to identify different forms of abuse and describe the possible effects on victims - learning.nspcc.org.uk

NSPCC Learning – Making Sense of Relationships Key Stage 4 Lesson Plan 3: PornographyThis lesson plan can help pupils to learn about the possible harmful effects of watching pornography - learning.nspcc.org.uk

SafeLives – Safe Young Lives: Young People and domestic abuseThis 2017 report discusses young people and domestic abuse and proposes recommendations for both practitioners and policy makers - safelives.org.uk

Women’s Aid – Resources for children and young peopleThese resources include the Expect Respect Education Toolkit, which can help pupils understand and identify the different types of domestic abuse - womensaid.org.uk