SHOCKING figures have revealed that thousands of young children have witnessed the devastating effects of domestic abuse.

A total of 3,551 under-fives when Cleveland Police arrived at incidents last year, according to figures released today.

And the statistics also show that more than 1,900 6-18 year olds were in the home when police arrived to a report of domestic abuse.

Campaigners and police believe the figures show the "stark" reality that domestic abuse severely damages people’s lives on a daily basis.

Temporary Detective Inspector Simon Walker, from Cleveland Police’s protecting vulnerable people unit, said: “These figures are stark and provide a glimpse into how domestic abuse ruins many lives. Perpetrators are controlling and manipulative, some do admit their behaviour and work to change but the majority don’t.

“I know victims do try and shelter their children as much as possible from an abusive relationship, but ultimately the only way to prevent emotional and psychological damage is to seek help and break free.”

The figures have been released as part of a national In Focus week (March 4-8), which puts the spotlight on the effects of domestic abuse and the services available to provide victims with support.

Director of Services at women’s refuge My Sister’s Place, Becky Rogerson, said: “We are fully supporting the police in this campaign, children and young people are often the hidden victims in domestic violence incidents and we all need to think about the impact that this can have on children.”

Cleveland Police will be taking part in a national ‘tweetathon’ tomorrow (March 6), sending a tweet every time they are sent to a domestic violence incident over a 24 hour period.

Anyone wishing to report domestic abuse to police should call the non-emergency number 101 or 999 in an emergency.