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Family Centre doubles down on abuse campaign

A charity set up to support children through crises has relaunched its anti-domestic abuse campaign after an increase in reported incidents over the Covid-19 lockdown.

Family Centre reminded people of the need to protect defenceless young people.

Sandy De Silva, the centre's director of services and executive director designate, said that a drive to increase knowledge of the problem started on World Children's Day last November.

She added: “Given the rise in reports of domestic abuse during the pandemic, we decided to relaunch the campaign to again heighten the awareness of the public on the effects that this type of abuse has on children, who are often the silent victims.

Dr De Silva asked: “If you knew the effects domestic abuse has on children, wouldn't you do something about it?

She said: “Statistics on the prevalence of domestic abuse worldwide reveal that approximately 22 per cent of this form of abuse involves children.

“This issue causes significant multigenerational harm to families and communities.

“A child is entitled to live in a home that is safe and not threatening to their mental and physical wellbeing. Family Centre's counselling services can support children and young people who have experienced domestic abuse to help them move on and receive the care they need.”

Dr De Silva added: “Our children of today are the adults of tomorrow and are innocent and defenceless in the shaping of their world, especially during a pandemic. We shape it for them.”

The Family Centre website said that a quarter of families in Bermuda experienced domestic abuse.

Dr De Silva explained: “As Bermuda has grappled with managing the spread of Covid-19, sadly some families have had to grapple with managing domestic abuse in their homes.

“For victims and survivors of domestic abuse, including children exposed to it, being home may not be a safe option.

“In addition, the unprecedented stress of the pandemic may create an unsafe environment in homes where violence may not have been an issue before.”

Dr De Silva said that reduced access to assistance, extra stress caused by unemployment and financial problems, as well as disconnection from support mechanisms had contributed to the problem around the world.

She said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has brought about these same social stressors here in Bermuda.

“This leaves victims of domestic abuse trapped in an escalating cycle of tension, power and control.

“Added to the stressful situation between the adults is the children's own stress and uncertainty about the pandemic.

“Stressed parents may be more likely to respond to their children's worried behaviours or demands in aggressive or abusive ways.” Parents were urged to try to keep anxiety levels as low as possible, by looking after themselves.”

Dr De Silva said people on the verge of violence should seek help and use stress-relief mechanisms such as breathing exercises and taking walks, as well as other “self-care activities”.

Dr De Silva said: “This will decrease the risk of lashing out at your partner or your child.

“Parents need to attune to their children's needs and their own needs.”

The Royal Gazette reported last week that the Bermuda Police Service had recorded 81 domestic violence incidents in April.

That compared with 47 cases in January, 52 in February and 35 in March.

A police spokesman said that the cases involved physical and non-physical incidents among people who fell under the “domestic violence” category such as spouse on spouse, child on child and child on parent.

Bermuda's shelter-in-place regulations, when only essential workers could leave their homes unless the journey was for food, medicine, fuel or because of a medical emergency, ran from April 4 to May 2.

The Family Centre website defined domestic abuse as “any type of controlling, bullying, threatening or violent behaviour between people in a relationship”.

The website warned: “It can seriously harm children and young people and witnessing domestic abuse is child abuse.”

The website said that domestic abuse could happen inside and outside the home, over the phone, internet and social-media sites, and that it could involve people even after a relationship has ended.

It added: “Both men and women can be abused or abusers.”

The website said domestic abuse could happen in any family, irrespective of factors like socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity and culture.

The website added: “Children who have witnessed domestic abuse are at a greater risk of becoming involved in abusive relationships as adults.

“Studies have shown that children growing up in domestic abuse end up with mental health problems at a rate higher than children who are actually direct victims of physical abuse.

“Younger children are impacted more severely by adult domestic abuse because of the developmental phase of the brain.”

For family support call Family Centre on 232-1116. To report domestic abuse contact the Centre Against Abuse 24-hour hotline at 297-8278. Families who need to access immediate mental health help should contact the emotional wellbeing hotline at 543-1111, which is open every day from 9am to 9pm

Here to help: Sandy De Silva from Family Centre

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Published May 28, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated May 28, 2020 at 8:10 am)

Family Centre doubles down on abuse campaign

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