Educational Opportunities and Obstacles for Teenagers Living in Domestic Violence Refuges

The hidden nature of domestic violence and abuse (DVA) is well established. Globally, its prevalence is difficult to ascertain, but international legal frameworks and existing studies recognise that DVA is experienced directly by children and young people in the home or within their own intimate partner relationships. In 2013, UK policy transformed teenagers into primary service users of DVA refuges. This study examines teenagers’ educational experiences over the period of their refuge stay and whether refuges responded effectively to their educational needs. Twenty refuges in England assisted with the study. Individual interviews with 25 staff members explored their perceptions of teenagers’ experiences. Repeat interviews with 20 teenagers were undertaken over the period of their refuge stay. The voices of teenagers are prioritised in this paper; four teenagers contributed to study design and three assisted with data analysis. A thematic approach was taken to analyse the data. Teenagers described various educational difficulties associated with adolescence and refuge life. Major themes included the disruption of education and a lack of resources to support educational achievement. Education can contribute to the resilience of teenagers who have experienced DVA. Refuges and schools should work collaboratively to build a co‐ordinated response.