Alongside our emphasis on the fundamental importance of commitment and stability within families, we have always been conscious of the significant prevalence of domestic abuse and that the quality of relationships cannot be ignored. Some degree of conflict is unavoidable in any family but when a pattern sets in of tension erupting frequently into uncontrollable violence, the safety of vulnerable members becomes of paramount importance. Over twothirds of victims of serious domestic abuse have children. This report makes clear the significant extent to which witnessing, or being aware that violence is taking place between their parents, can blight a child’s life.
Similarly, couple relationships characterised by the coercive control of one partner by the other, can lead to the shrinking of victims’ worlds, the crushing of their potential and a depth of trauma that can make it almost impossible even to care for their children. When a woman escapes from such a situation she will often need significant support to manage the emotional aftermath – and avoid becoming entangled in repetitive abusive relationships again. Studies suggest that around half of all women currently experiencing abuse have previously been in an abusive relationship, and that their children may find themselves going through this destructive cycle many times before they reach adulthood.
This report, like all our work, looks at the root causes of the problem of domestic abuse and provides solutions that are grounded in evidence rather than ideology. We avoid overlysimplistic narratives that ascribe all the blame for domestic abuse to a male desire to control and subjugate women. While power, control and patriarchy are explanatory factors in many contexts of domestic abuse, there are several others that are also significant, including poverty, substance misuse, psychological vulnerabilities rooted in people’s past experiences and the dynamics that play out between two people in a relationship.