Early intervention and prevention for children and young people subject to domestic abuse: Changing Relations blog

Nearly two years has passed since Section 3 of the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 came into force. This means by law, any child who sees, hears, or experiences the effects of domestic abuse, or is related to the victim or the perpetrator, is now regarded as a victim within their own right.

It is the Commissioner’s vision that children and young people who have been subject to domestic abuse should receive a strong and comprehensive response, rooted in understanding. SafeLives estimates that as children start primary school, there will be at least one child in every classroom who has lived with domestic abuse since they were born.

To understand more about the work being done within early intervention and prevention, we caught up with Lisa Charlotte Davis, founder of Changing Relations C.I.C. She told us about her book and animation ‘Sometimes It Hurts’, which aims to give a voice to young people and a language to themes that are difficult and sensitive to approach, such as neglect, divorce, domestic abuse and unhealthy, controlling behaviours, both within families and within young people’s own romantic relationships.

Here’s what Lisa told us:

Changing Relations is as an arts education organisation set up in 2013 to educate schools, organisations, and communities about difficult and, often taboo, relationship issues. It is my mission to give voice to the unheard members of society and engage with audiences by using the arts as a transformative way to reach people and change lives.

Through creative productions, Changing Relations’ creative output, resources and workshops raise awareness of topical and sensitive subjects, such as domestic abuse, gender stereotypes, consent and sexting risks. We do this in an accessible way, giving a voice to those who have been affected, and generating public and professional understanding.

The impact can be profound. Teachers who observe our workshops have told us that the conversations sparked by workshops are ongoing: “It’s given them the opportunity to talk about things that need to be talked about and given them the impetus to ask for help more openly.”, one teacher reflected.

In developing the animation Sometimes it Hurts, it was important to us to create a space for children and young people to express what was going on for them in these kinds of situations as well as what made them feel okay – or not – in the way professionals engaged with them.

One of the stories in Sometimes it Hurts highlights the risk of young people who have been a victim within their own right through witnessing parental domestic abuse, being targeted by charming but controlling individuals and finding themselves in toxic relationships of their own. It our priority to empower young people to navigate what is healthy and what is toxic. One young person who helped us to create the story told us: “It makes you feel like you’re not the only one when you go through it.”

The impact of Sometimes It Hurts inspired us at Changing Relations to look at other creative opportunities and we have been working with a groups of young people to guide and shape our next creative output, ‘A is for Amy’. The production is centred around toxic teen relationships and how we can support young people who find themselves in these relationships, before they become deeply entrenched.

The play supports young people to navigate what is healthy and what is toxic in relationships (from the perspective of both friendships and intimate relationships), where to find support and safety and how to helpfully respond to worrying signs in their friends’ relationships.

We are proud to be a part of the vital response to early intervention and prevention for children and young people. It is Changing Relations’ aim to provider greater awareness of healthy relationships as it is vital that young people are given the tools to be on the lookout for their peers, to be better equipped to understand the red flags of their unhealthy relationships and to understand where support can be accessed, empowering them to help themselves and each other.