Nicola Porter reports on a pioneering anti-violence course as we look at the effects of domestic abuse on children.
Teenage boys who hit their girlfriends are receiving anti-violence lessons in a joint project between some Welsh schools and the NSPCC.
The 13-week courses - the first of their kind in Britain - are being run in Cardiff and are open to boys from across south Wales.
The programme aims to help violent teenagers stop beating up their school-age girlfriends and mothers. Lessons are held away from schools but teachers offer advice and support, and give valuable feedback to programme leaders on their progress in the classroom. Currently eight boys are taking part in the courses.
Kevin Gibbs, area children's services manager for NSPCC Cymru, said:
"Teenage boys are seeking help because they want to stop hitting those closest to them, usually their mums and girlfriends.
"Our courses are all about nipping domestic violence in the bud and hopefully stopping domestic violence causing more trauma for all concerned in the future."
A survey revealed last week that a fifth of teenage girls under 18 claimed to have been hit by their school-age partners. The NSPCC and teen magazine Sugar asked 2,000 schoolgirls if they had been struck by their boyfriends, and how often. They found 4 per cent of teenage girls are beaten up by their school-age partners on a regular basis. A further 16 per cent have been hit at least once.
Mr Gibbs, who heads an NSPCC task force working with families to prevent domestic violence in south Wales, said: "The results from Sugar magazine do not surprise us. We are recognising more and more that children are part of the domestic violence cycle, whether they be the victims or perpetrators."
He added: "This is ground-breaking work, particularly special to Wales and the Assembly's policies on domestic violence.
"In previous years help has been focused on adult victims of domestic violence. Now every family member, including young victims, is offered help as part of an on-going programme of help.
"We do not sit down families together but work on the perpetrators and the rest of the family in separate sessions."
He said research suggests that in 90 per cent of domestic disputes, children are in the same or adjacent room. An education officer is working closely with schools to ensure the scheme's success and implement other initiatives.
Brian Rowlands, secretary of the Secondary Heads Association Cymru, welcomed the NSPCC initiative but said "one-off" programmes were not enough.
He said: "Schools are a microcosm of society, and violence perpetrated in schools against fellow pupils, and even against teaching and support staff, merely reflects violent conduct in the home.
"The age at which violent tendencies are occurring is becoming younger and needs to be addressed well before the age of 13."
Peter Clarke, children's commissioner for Wales, said: "It is great that children who have been a victim of domestic violence can now have their voice heard."
The Assembly's all-Wales strategy on the issue outlines education as a major tool in combating violence within homes. Domestic violence issues are now taught in personal and social education in both primary and secondary schools.
Edwina Hart, minister for social justice and regeneration, said they had an important role to play in tacking domestic abuse at the launch this week of the Assembly's national strategy.
She said four Welsh schools would be piloting a scheme, run by charity Womankind, aimed at helping young children who may be living in abusive homes.
FACTFILE: DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
* Welsh Women's Aid (WWA), says up to 150,000 children and young people are affected by domestic abuse in Wales every year.
* In 90 per cent of domestic assaults on women, children are in the same or adjacent room.
* WWA says 25 per cent of all domestic violence attacks are made against pregnant women.
* Child abuse by a parent is 15 times more likely to occur in a home where domestic violence is present.
* 80 per cent of severe physical assaults on children occurred in homes where there was violence between adults.
* Every minute a domestic violence incident will be reported to police throughout England and Wales.
* NSPCC Cymru runs the only service in Wales working systemically with children, their mothers and the domestic abusers. Based in Cardiff, it currently works with 100 children, women and men.