ALMOST 7,000 children were witnesses or victims of domestic violence in their own homes over the festive period.
For the first time, police have recorded how many youngsters were caught up in violence behind closed doors in December and January.
The results were more disturbing than feared – and the figures are only the tip of the iceberg according to children’s charities.
Children 1st claims more than 30,000 children in Scotland could be witnessing or being subjected to domestic violence on a regular basis.
The figures were revealed this week to coincide with the Domestic Abuse Conference at the Scottish Police College, in Fife.
Police, children’s agencies and charities met to find ways of tackling domestic abuse and its impact on the lives of youngsters.
The figures show that 6,585 children were involved in more than 10,000 incidents of domestic violence recorded over the festive period. Eighty per cent of the victims were women.
That compares with 9,812 recorded incidents last year and 7,942 the previous year.
Domestic abuse traditionally peaks during the festive period when families spend long periods together, a lot of alcohol is consumed, and tensions can run high.
Alison Todd, Children 1st director of policy and practice development, said: “We need to start thinking about children who witness domestic abuse as victims because often they are.
“Research has shown that children are more likely to be physically abused in homes where there is severe violence and, also, a minority are more likely to be sexually abused.
“The emotional trauma from growing up in homes where violence is present can also be severe, especially for younger children.
“As a society, we need to be sure that we are doing all we can to protect children.”
Chief Inspector Graham Goulden, head of Scotland’s Violence Reduction Unit, called the new statistics “absolutely shocking”.
He said: “This is Scotland’s national shame. We cannot keep hiding our heads in the sand about domestic abuse.
“This is the first time we have recorded incidents involving children. Sadly, this will not be the full picture. There are many, many more children living in these war zones.”
Goulden added: “No child, or their mothers, should have to experience this kind of violence in their own homes.
“These children are victims too, whether they have witnessed or experienced domestic abuse.”
Heather Coady, of Scottish Women’s Aid, said the problem could be worse as domestic abuse was “vastly under-reported”.
“It stops children being safe in their own homes, it stops them being happy and healthy and can stop them having an education.
“We and our partners need to get better at understanding why it happens to so many women and respond in a way that helps them and their children to be safe.”
Francis Stewart set up Survivors in 2008 to help the children of domestic abuse. She believes child victims of domestic abuse should routinely be given support by all local authorities.
“Children are as much the victims as anyone else,” she says. “The psychological trauma lasts into adulthood and some never recover. We need to develop new ways of treating the problems but support can be lacking.
“I’d like to see all local authorities in Scotland develop an action plan which focuses on children’s wellbeing.”