Thousands of children living in abusive households in Bucks may not be getting the vital support they need as they are not classed as victims of domestic violence, according to the NSPCC.
The child protection charity has urged government to recognise the 3,907 children living with domestic abuse in Bucks as victims under the law.
The government’s proposed new definition of domestic abuse “ignores” the effects growing up in violent household has on children, according to the NSPCC.
The charity is now urging the government to publish its domestic violence and abuse white paper – a document that sets out proposals for future laws – without delay and recognise children as victims in its domestic abuse laws.
Legally recognising children as victims of domestic abuse would enable professionals protect young people who are at risk and help authorities ensure there are specific services to help them overcome any trauma.
Bucks County Council (BCC) says it is “committed” to help those directly affected by domestic violence and works with a range of partners as part of the Safer Stronger Bucks initiative on the issue.
A spokesman for the council said: “BCC continues to work closely with a range of multi-agency partners to address domestic abuse as part of the Safer and Stronger Bucks Partnership.
“As a member of this partnership the county council remains committed to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of those directly affected by domestic violence.”
NSPCC’s campaign is backed by brothers Luke and Ryan Hart – whose dad murdered their mum and sister in 2016 after decades of domestic abuse.
Ryan said: “We didn’t recognise it as abuse because there was never any violence but it was coercive control, financial, emotional, psychological abuse.
“What is often missed is the effects of living in that environment has on kids, growing up not only witnessing abuse but experiencing it day in and day out, how that affects us growing up and into adult life.
“Children living with domestic abuse are not just witnesses to the abuse, they are victims themselves.
“Luke and I know first-hand the psychological effects, emotional effects can have on you by seeing someone you love being a victim of abuse.”
Wycombe MP, Steve Baker, says government has made dealing with domestic abuse “an absolute priority” since 2010, and said he would urge the secretary of state to publish the white paper “without delay”.
He said: “The government’s aim is to make domestic abuse everyone’s business, and to prevent domestic abuse by challenging the acceptability of abuse and addressing the underlying attitudes and norms that perpetuate it.
“The government has worked closely with partners to introduce measures which deal with the fundamental drivers of domestic abuse, address the needs of survivors and victims, and ensure perpetrators are brought to justice.
“A consultation closed in May 2017, and the government received over 3,200 responses; these are currently being analysed before the legislation is brought before parliament.
“It is not right any child should have to live with domestic abuse, and I will ask the secretary of state to publish the new domestic violence and abuse white paper without delay.”