Currently, about 19% of paediatric patients treated at mental health centres are victims or witnesses of domestic violence. Some of these infants are misdiagnosed, and violence is not detected during the child’s exploration. This is mainly due to the fact that the symptoms of childhood traumatic stress can be confused with the symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), neurological or developmental disorders. 

SAVE (Support and treatment of traumatized children After ViolencE) project works to improve the capabilities of medical professionals to accurately identify children witnessing or victims of violence, both emotionally and behaviourally, so that they could be appropriately treated. It will also work to improve support for families with a supportive program in each situation. 

The project also expects to strengthen cooperation between health professionals, family members and public authorities to detect domestic violence where children are involved. At present, the prevalence of child abuse by domestic violence is around 15% throughout Europe. 

For two years, experts from Italy, Germany and Spain will work to build a program to support children victims or witnesses of domestic violence, in conjunction with health centres and public authorities. On October 17 and 18, the four centres involved in the project carry out the kick-off meeting in Barcelona. 

Dra. Mar Alvarez, from the Hospital Sant Joan de Déu Barcelona, leads the consortium together with experts from the Fundazione Fatebenefratelli per la Ricerca e Formazione Sanitaria e Sociale (Italy), with long experience in training professionals, the Ospedale Pediatrico Bambino Gesù (Italy) in the detection of family profiles at risk of violence and the differential diagnosis with ADHD and the Barmherzige Bruder Gemeinnutzige Krankenhaus GMBH with a program to treat immigrant minors and break language barriers (Germany).

More than 10 years of experience in the care of children victims of domestic violence

In 2005, the Sant Joan de Déu Hospital initiated the TEVI program (Attention Program for Children and Adolescents Witnesses of Gender Violence) at the Children’s and Youth Mental Health Centre in Cornellà. In 2013 the TEVI Program was recognized as a Best Practices Program by the ‘Ministerio de Sanidad, Servicios Sociales e Igualdad, Observatorio de salud de las mujeres (OSM)‘, to strengthen the gender focus on care, prevention, health research and training on sexist violence. The program has two objectives, on the one hand, to provide specific and specialized assistance and rehabilitation to these minors. And on the other hand, to build a useful model of care that will consolidate the domestic violence care circuit and make visible the consequences for children.

During these 14 years, the TEVI program has attended more than 1000 patients’ witnesses of violence, with an average of 80 new patients every year.

This project was funded by the European Union’s Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme (2014-2020).