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Thousands of children witness domestic violence, warn papers

Published on June 20, 2021

One in five children in Switzerland (21%) has witnessed scenes of domestic violence at home, sometimes with lasting consequences, write two Sunday newspapers.

This means that 300,000 children may have been exposed to such scenes, of whom more than 90,000 frequently, write the SonnstagsZeitung and Le Matin Dimanche, citing figures from the Federal Office for Gender Equality. Young children are often heavily affected by this violence, and child witnesses to such scenes are now considered victims in their own right, according to Le Matin.

The newspapers also cite a 2020 study by the Lausanne University Hospital (CHUV), which found that violence could last several hours, with children sometimes becoming involved. Some intervene, call the police or neighbours, and try to protect brothers and sisters. Children may also be grabbed, pushed, and used as shields by victims.

The Swiss government on Friday approved a new report on violence against women and domestic violence, which makes “support to children affected by violence” one of its priorities in the fight against domestic violence.

According to recent estimates by the World Health Organization about one in three women worldwide have been subjected to physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, most of which is intimate partner violence. The WHO says children who grow up in families where there is violence may suffer a range of behavioural and emotional disturbances and “these can be associated with perpetrating or experiencing violence in later life”.

swissinfo/jc