Helping the young victims of violence

Catherine Dutson for Domestic Violence campaign.
Catherine Dutson for Domestic Violence campaign.
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TRAUMATISED by what they have seen and heard, children from tots to teens are being helped by Catherine Dutson in Wearside Women In Need’s refuges.

“It affects them in all kinds of ways, “says Catherine, children’s worker manager, who explains: “They feel sad, worried and scared. They worry about their mams and when they are not around and sometimes their school work suffers. And sometimes they plough themselves into school work.

“And when they come to us they tell us they feel safe and have someone who will listen to them and they feel they can relax and be themselves. If affects teenagers differently to the little ones who often don’t want to tell their friends that they live in a refuge.

“And although they do feel safe and glad to be away from the violence, they do miss their friends. It’s different for teenage boys to girls. This is a hostel of women and often boys feel excluded.”

In one-to-one and group sessions Catherine works with them on key issues – how to be safe, have food, good wellbeing, enjoyment, achievement and making a positive contribution.

She says: “These things are what children need and we try to work around these things. We have a doll’s house and the little children who haven’t got the vocabulary to show us what has happened in their home with the doll’s house with the furniture. They pick the dolls up and one little boy asked if we had a policeman because the police had arrived and it was really awful that he had seen all that. And he showed us with a male doll how it was shouting and throwing furniture and chairs.

“It gives us an insight into what they are feeling and you can get a really good look into what their family life was like. With little ones they aren’t going to make things up if they have seen it.

“And we have a game called Worry Less. They love playing with that. If we know children are leaving there’s a freephone helpline number, 415 1506 and we make sure they know how to dial 999.

“We pretend we are the operator asking ‘Which emergency service do you require? Police ambulance or both.’ And we don’t always get the chance to do that if they leave without our knowledge, but if we know they are going back home, we do that.

“The schools also know if they are returning home. We try to equip them the best we can and a lot of children move on to a new house with their mam. And that’s lovely. They are traumatised when they arrive and sometimes we have displays of destructive behaviour due to what they have seen. Sometimes that’s because they feel safe and are challenging us. But we work closely with their mams as well to bring in positive parenting, which they haven’t been able to do because they have been frightened of the perpetrator.” Catherine related meeting an old man who told her as a child he had lived with domestic violence and said: “There was nobody like you around when I was little. There was nobody for us and it’s lovely that there’s someone like you today.”


IF you’re a victim of domestic violence and want help or advice, call the confidential helpline of the Sunderland Partnership on 0800 0665 555, 24 hours a day.

Anyone in immediate danger should call 999.

If you are a perpetrator of domestic violence and want help to change, call 510 8010, 24 hours a day.

Wearside Women In Need’s 24-hour helpline is 0800 0665 555.

If you are a friend, relation or neighbour of someone experiencing domestic violence you can help by contacting the police and report it on 101 for non-urgent calls, or in an emergency call 999. You don’t have to give your name. You won’t have to go to court, and you don’t have to intervene and put yourself in danger.

Remember, you could save someone’s life or protect a child from harm if you make that call.

Don’t allow victims to suffer in silence by tolerating domestic violence.