Children as Hidden Victims of Domestic Violence

Domestic violence

On February 28th ECSA participated in an international symposium on violence against children, hosted by the Policy Exchange in partnership with the Centre for Parliamentary Studies. The symposium was held to raise awareness of children as hidden victims of domestic violence and abuse in Europe.

According to Marta Santos Pais, the United Nations Secretary General Special Representative on Violence against Children, 70% of children aged 2-14 are victims of some form of domestic violence.

The UN World Report on violence against children states that an estimated 133-275 million children worldwide witness violence at home.

The European Commission estimates that the cost of domestic violence in just the 4 states measured (UK, Netherlands, Finland and Spain) exceeds 38 billion euros per year. This includes the costs of police action, the criminal justice system, healthcare, social services, emergency housing, civil legal support, and loss to economic output.

Symposium Chair – Christine Harrison

Symposium Chair - Christine Harrison, Associate Professor, Chair of the School of Health and Social Studies, and Director of the Centre for the Study of Safety and Wellbeing, University of Warwick

At the symposium, Margaret Tuite, Commission Coordinator for the Rights of the Child for the EuropeanCommission, presented the EU Agenda for the Rights of the Child in 2011.

The EU Agenda states the commitment of the EU to promote, protect and fulfil the rights of the child, and places special emphasis on:

  • Protection of vulnerable children
  • Elimination of all forms of violence against children
  • Child friendly justice systems, missing children studies
  • Implementation of the 2011 Directive to combat sexual abuse and exploitation of children
  • The Directive on victims' rights due to be adopted in 2012.

Godana Berjan of the Children's Rights Policy Division, Council of Europe, emphasised the need for international justice for children. The new Council of Europe Strategy addressing violence against children has four strategic objectives:

  1. Promote child-friendly services and systems (health-care, social services, justice & family law)
  2. Combat all forms of violence against children (sexual violence, corporal punishment, domestic violence, violence in schools & cyberspace)
  3. Safeguard the rights of children in vulnerable situations (in alternative care, in detention, migrants, asylum seeking, refugee, children with disabilities)
  4. Promote child participation at local, national and international level

Further presentations addressed dealing with the effects of domestic violence and abuse of children, improving cooperation between child protection services in Europe, and sharing of toolkits for assessments and holistic social services for children as victims of domestic violence and abuse.

Joanne Vincenten, Director of the European Child Safety Alliance, said that violence against children and young people is a hidden issue, often taking place where children should be safest- in their homes. Presently, the available data are inadequate to truly describe the scope of the problem. We hope our work investigating and advocating the adoption, implementation and enforcement of good practices to prevent intentional injuries to children and adolescents will contribute to reduce these unjust injuries.

More information on the United Nations "Violence Against Children" activities can be viewed at:

More information on the Council of Europe activities can be viewed at:

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