AN Oxfordshire family have told of the devastation that domestic violence can wreak on children.

Natasha and her daughter Zara, whose surnames are not being revealed, have said that the psychological damage from abuse can stay with youngsters forever.

The pair, who will appear on a BBC documentary about the issue this evening, have spoken out about their experiences in an effort to increase awareness and support others suffering in similar situations.

Zara, who is now 14, said that when she was younger violence ‘just seemed normal’, adding: “It was a really negative household to be in. I blamed myself when Mum was getting hurt, because I feel like I should have done something.

Banbury Cake: "I blamed myself", said Zara. Picture: Rebecca Coxon"I blamed myself", said Zara. Picture: Rebecca Coxon

“When people say that domestic violence doesn't affect the younger generation they are completely and utterly wrong in every way. People need to understand that this does something to us, that it effects our brains and the way we view the rest of the world and our perspective on certain things.”

Her mother Natasha, 37, says her ex was regularly violent and even hit her with the leg of a chair that he had just smashed, leaving a police officer to say she had ‘the worst bruise he had ever seen’.

She believes the impact of domestic abuse on children’s mentality is huge and long-lasting.

Natasha said: “I never even knew Zara blamed herself or felt guilty that she hadn't done anything to stop it (because she couldn't have anyway) but that breaks my heart because it was never her fault and it is my job to protect her, not for her to protect me.”

After five years without contact, in 2017 she says her ex coerced her daughter into meeting him, after breaching court conditions and contacting her via his other daughter and new partner.

That led to ‘the worst five days’ of Natasha’s life, as she went through the courts to get her daughter back.

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She believes hers is one of just six cases in the UK in the last 10 years which saw ‘parental responsibility’ withdrawn by a court.

Noting how her partner used to threaten to take the children if she left him, she said: “I cannot stress enough how hard it is to separate from an abusive partner especially when they are violent... and as the person trying to get out of that relationship I got out when I could... but as you can see the lasting trauma that living in that environment has on a child is undeniable, it affects their confidence, how they view themselves and having healthy relationships in the future. Their whole mental health suffers.”

Speaking about why she appeared in the documentary, she continued: “I just want people to realise how damaging it is for children.

“I have done this because the problem with those people is that they get away with it for so long because no one speaks out. This might just help somebody else.”

Praising the charity Reducing the Risk, she added: “I didn’t want my children growing up thinking that is normal behaviour.”

Zara urged children that are suffering or have suffered to speak out or tell someone close to them that they trust.

She added: “I want to be able to move forwards in my life, (but) yes it will always be a major part of me and always be in the back of my head tucked away.”

Tonight’s documentary, Behind Closed Doors: Through The Eyes of the Child, focusses on children’s experiences with domestic violence in Oxfordshire and airs on BBC 2 at 9pm.

Banbury Cake: Tonight's documentary will also explore the story of Kirstie, pictured with her auntie, Jo. They are holding a photograph of Kirstie’s mum, Natalie, who was murdered by an abusive partner. Picture: Behind Closed DoorsTonight's documentary will also explore the story of Kirstie, pictured with her auntie, Jo. They are holding a photograph of Kirstie’s mum, Natalie, who was murdered by an abusive partner. Picture: Behind Closed Doors

Director Anna Hall told the Oxford Mail: “We made the film because we wanted people to be aware that domestic violence has a massive impact on children.

“The overriding message is that children do know what’s going on.”

Organisers say one in five children in the UK have lived with an adult who is, or has been, a domestic abuser and that the latest research shows that witnessing domestic abuse in childhood affects people forever.

For advice on dealing with domestic abuse in Oxfordshire, Reducing the Risk can be contacted on contact@reducingtherisk.org.uk or the ODAS helpline 0800 7310055