THERE are 3,497 hidden victims of domestic violence in Sunderland – and all of them are children.
New figures reveal thousands of young people have been referred to children’s social care services during the past year because they are exposed to violence in their own home.
Domestic violence support workers fear the numbers are just the tip of the iceberg and hundreds more remain under the radar.
The latest figures, from a Sunderland Safeguarding Children Board report, shows a drop in referrals from 2011/12 when 4,749 reports were made.
But those in charge of looking after victims say the figures mask a much bigger problem.
Claire Phillipson, director of Wearside Women in Need, said: “Every awful death of a child that’s dominated newspaper headlines, in recent years, has involved domestic violence, but even in those cases which have gained national attention, domestic violence as a factor in the child’s death has been unreported, or just not recognised as an indicator of serious risk.
“We need to do so much more to prevent domestic violence, and to make sure responsibility and blame for the violence is laid firmly at the door of violent men and not indulge in easy victim blaming of women and mothers.
“What’s also worrying is that these referrals will be the tip of the iceberg, the majority of cases of domestic violence are not reported by the victim, as they are terrified of the consequences for themselves and their children.”
“Everyone in our community, professionals, families, neighbours and friends, have a responsibility to reach out and protect children living with domestic violence.
“It’s not a private matter that we shouldn’t interfere in, it’s a criminal matter, and no child should find themselves denied help and silenced by the adults around them failing to act.
“Growing up in a household where there is domestic violence has a lifelong impact.
“I’ve yet to meet an adult with mental health problems, or drug and alcohol problems, or a lifestyle of destructive criminal behaviour, who didn’t live in a house with a violent father figure, or a series of them.
“And no one should imagine that domestic violence only happens in poor working class households and always involves alcohol consumption. Middle class and upper class men are just as abusive to their partners and children, it’s just they can often hide better behind their professional status and power. It’s much harder if you live in a big detached house for neighbours to hear screaming and shouting and report it to the police.”
Domestic violence forms the centre of an ongoing initiative currently happening in the Sunderland area. The city was picked due to its high arrest figures for perpetrators of this type of crime.