`Domestic Abuse Is a Crime That Will Be Repeated If Not Reported' AS the NSPCC Continues Its Fight to Put an End to Child Deaths, Chris Beckett Reports on a South Wales Support Unit Which Is Providing a Haven for Abused Women and Their Children

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Byline: Chris Beckett

FOR dozens of children each year, domestic violence shifts from a cruel way of life to a brutal cause of death.

The tragic tales of Milly Dowler and Holly and Jessica will be etched on our memories for years to come - yet their deaths represent just a fraction of the number of children killed every year.

To combat these horrific statistics, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) is working to raise awareness of domestic violence.

A prime example of tackling this problem at its roots can be seen at the Women's Safety Unit in Cardiff.

The facility, part-funded and managed by the NSPCC, is the only one of its kind in Britain and is designed to provide complete support for women and children who are victims of abuse.

The centre, which opened last December, is a multi-agency unit which has personal links with the main systems of support, including police and social services.

Because of this, victims of abuse are spared the emotional and physical effort of contacting individual support services and discussing their problems at different locations.

For children in particular, the process of relating traumatic detail to several parties can be psychologically damaging.

Manager Jan Pickles said: ``Children who have to tell the same shocking story over and over again can become de-sensitised to it. ``No single agency has got the answer, but by working together and sharing skills we can provide a complete safety package.''

Since it was set up at the end of last year, the unit has dealt with more than 700 cases.

``Domestic abuse is one of those crimes which is repeated unless it gets reported,'' said Jan.

``We work with women who are high-risk, so it is vitally important to make her and her child feel safe.''

For children who witness or are victims of domestic violence, behavioural problems - including bed-wetting and a desire to spend all their time at school - can occur quickly.

After visiting the unit, children can be referred to a special NSPCC project, The Children's Group, which provides weekly sessions for children aged between seven and 12 to share their thoughts and feelings relating to the violence they have witnessed.

Forum inspired Claire to leave

AN abusive relationship made life hell for Claire - not her real name - for seven years. But while the memories are still fresh, she is now picking up the pieces.

CLAIRE recalls vividly the day she was first hit by her husband.

``The first time it happened we had been having a row when he punched my face and gave me a black eye,'' said the 35-year-old from Lakeside. ``I have always considered myself a strong person, but when it happened I felt humiliated and wanted to pretend it hadn't happened because I loved him.''

Yet the incident was far from a one-off and Claire found herself growing terrified of seeing her husband.

As well as her own safety, she was concerned for her young children and unborn baby.

``The abuse carried on when I was pregnant and I was terrified I would lose the baby,'' she said. ``Once I had to jump from a first floor window because I thought he was going to kill me .''

Meanwhile, the rows grew more frequent and Claire was horrified to see her husband trying to turn their children against her. …