POLICE officers are being trained to see abuse through the eyes of a child as part of a new initiative.

In the area covered by Cleveland Police, eight per cent of all recorded crimes are linked to domestic abuse.

Now, whenever they respond to such incidents, Cleveland Police officers must ask themselves how youngsters present could be affected and how they should be supported.

The ‘Through the Eyes of a Child’ initiative was inspired by research into the lasting impact of adverse childhood experiences which suggests children who suffer from or witness abuse often carry negative experiences into later life.

Temporary Detective Inspector Jennifer Milsom of the force’s Protecting Vulnerable People Unit, told The Northern Echo that witnessing violence and abuse in the home or being around criminal behaviour in general could significantly increase the likelihood of a youngster later becoming a victim or perpetrator.

She said: “Children don’t sleep through violence. For dozens of local children, living in homes where there is domestic violence, the stuff of childhood nightmares – the ‘monsters under the bed’ – are real.

“They are affected by what’s happening at home and by looking at incidents through the eyes of a child we can do more for these ‘hidden’ victims.”

TDI Milsom added: “Officers attending these incidents are often dealing with chaotic, violent scenes where there can be an immediate risk to life.

“Yet children hiding upstairs or in the hallway are victims too.

“Simple actions, such as recording the home environment on officers’ body worn video cameras, speaking to children about what happens at home and completing a risk assessment are vital.”

Cleveland Police officers have now been issued with prompt cards to carry in their notebooks and are being encouraged to focus on supporting youngsters and ensuring potential impact upon them is noted and risk assessments carried out.

The initiative, supported by Cleveland’s Police and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger, also links with Operation Encompass, which sees police alert schools and other agencies to incidents, such as those relating to domestic abuse,that could have an adverse effect on youngsters.

TDI Milsom said it was vital to work with other agencies and the public in an effort to eradicate domestic abuse as she urged anyone with suspicions about abuse to speak to the police on non-emergency number 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800-555-111.