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New Research: Urgent need to help new parents break cycle of domestic abuse

MAJOR new research by The For Baby’s Sake Trust highlights the shocking prevalence of domestic abuse amongst parents, particularly for those who experienced domestic abuse as children, and how lockdown has triggered feelings of trauma for some of these parents. Most telling is the data about the prevalence of domestic abuse during pregnancy and before babies reach age two, with insights into parents’ motivations and their barriers to seeking support.

The For Baby’s Sake Trust has published the research, commissioned by YouGov*, to help raise awareness of the scale of domestic abuse among expectant parents and parents of babies and young children and help to enable them to receive the support they need.

The Trust is raising awareness and wants new parents affected by domestic abuse to know they are not alone. Hearing that 40% of parents who have experienced domestic abuse said it occurred during pregnancy or before their baby reached age two can help parents to recognise the signs of domestic abuse and feel more able to seek professional support.

The survey showed that the time from pregnancy until a baby’s second birthday, known as a baby’s first 1001 days, was the most common time for domestic abuse to occur during parenthood. These survey results are in line with academic evidence about the high prevalence of domestic abuse during this period. The survey also underlines that this has been a long term trend that persists today, indicating that more needs to be done to reach parents at this time.

Parents identified a number of major barriers to seeking help when experiencing domestic abuse during pregnancy or before their baby reached age two:

  • Feeling ashamed (37%)

  • Worrying about experiencing more abuse as a consequence (33%)

  • Not knowing how to talk about the situation (33%)

  • Not thinking it was serious enough to seek help (32%)

  • Worrying about the consequences to my baby, in terms of action by the authorities (27%)

  • Not wanting to be judged (27%)

The For Baby’s Sake Trust has created a programme, For Baby’s Sake, which takes a unique approach to addressing these barriers. Both parents join For Baby’s Sake during pregnancy, whether together as a couple or not, and may be supported until their baby reaches age two. The programme’s whole family approach includes support for parents to deal with any trauma and complex needs that are so often unaddressed.

For Baby’s Sake began with area-based teams in Hertfordshire and London, and in the last 18 months, new teams started working in Cambridgeshire and Blackpool. The For Baby’s Sake Trust is working to launch For Baby’s Sake CONNECT, based on the experience of operating during the lockdown, to deliver the programme using video and phone technology to families in a limited number of additional places without an area-based team.

The For Baby’s Sake Trust is also starting to release some carefully selected tools and resources that are used within the programme, which may be of wider use to parents and professionals. These can help parents to deal with difficult situations and regulate their emotions or support conversations between parents and professionals to explore whether domestic abuse is occurring. These are available on The For Baby’s Sake Trust’s new website, along with evidence about domestic abuse, infant development and the needs of parents and families.

Speaking about the research, Amanda McIntyre, CEO of The For Baby’s Sake Trust, said:

“This research really brings home why it is so important we give new parents the support they need to break the cycle of domestic abuse and give their babies a better start in life.

“Raising a baby can be an amazing, positive and life-changing experience, but it can also be a real challenge, particularly if the parents have had a traumatic childhood or are in an abusive relationship. This isn’t inevitable, there is another way, and we have a duty to give these parents the support they need to break the cycle of domestic abuse and give their babies the best possible start in life.”

*All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2224 parents, of which 281 had experienced domestic abuse from a partner during pregnancy and/ or the first two years of their child’s life. Fieldwork was undertaken between 8th – 9th February 2021. The survey was carried out online.

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