25 November is the international day for the elimination of violence against women (VAW) and starts 16 days of activism against gender violence around the world. This provides a unique opportunity each year to raise the profile of VAW issues in the media. A documentary programme on BBC television this week (“Don’t hit my Mum”) highlighted the impact of domestic violence on children. It estimated that at least 750,000 children in the UK witness domestic violence at home each year. Singer-songwriter, Alesha Dixon, spoke about her own experiences as a child of watching her mother being assaulted by a partner. She then interviewed children and young people about their own experiences and spoke with experts, and a perpetrator, about the impact of such violence on young lives. What came across was the fear that violence creates, the lack of security, the compensating behaviours that children put in place, and the negative impact on their development and character.
This was a brave film that highlighted the impact of domestic violence on children in the UK and encouraged people to break the silence so that these situations can be changed. It also spoke to me about the value of preventing VAW, not just for the women themselves but also for the future generations whose lives and relationships are being damaged through abuse. Many of the children affected in the film were able to access professional help and to recover. My final thought was to wonder how this works out in situations and countries where there is no such help available, no refuges for women to go to and no escape for children from the recurrent nightmare of seeing their mother being beaten.