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The Crown Princess: We should never forget the children growing up in violent homes

Each year, approx. 2.000 children arrive at a women’s shelter with their mother. They have often left their home without personal belongings, such as e.g. a toothbrush, a teddy bear or their pyjamas. These children were in mind today, when The Crown Princess and retired staff from LEGO prepared and packed backpacks for the women’s shelters in Denmark, Greenland and the Faroe Islands.

The Crown Princess started off the day by thanking the many retired LEGO staff for their time and effort and read aloud a moving message from a mother whose children received a backpack when they arrived at a shelter: “Two days after we arrived, we received the greatest backpacks. My children didn’t notice, but tears were running down my cheeks of gratitude when they opened the backpacks in excitement….such a little thing means so much when you are in a situation like we were.”

Since 2008, more than 19.000 children at women’s shelters have received a backpack from The Mary Foundation and Ole Kirk’s Foundation. The backpack contains the immediate necessities that a child might need when he or she arrives at a shelter, incl. a toothbrush, a towel, a diary and a teddy bear. At the same time, the backpack serves as a pedagogical tool for the staff of the shelter when they initiate the first difficult conversation with the child about the experience of domestic violence.

It is just as harmful for a child to witness the mother being subjected to domestic violence as it is if the child itself is subjected to violence. With project ComfortPacks our ambition was to focus on the many children who grow up in homes with domestic violence. The purpose was first of all to send a symbolic gesture of recognition to the children, but the project has proved to be much more than that. Today, the pedagogic staff of the women’s shelters use the backpack as an important tool in the child’s healing process, and the backpack includes a message to the children that the violence is never their fault, and that violence can never be justified. We and our collaboration partners are proud of project ComfortPacks in all its simplicity”, HRH The Crown Princess said about project ComfortPacks.

More than 50 women’s shelters in Denmark, Greenland and the Faroe Islands offer backpacks to children who arrive with their mother. Each year, retired LEGO staff prepare and pack the many backpacks. This year, The Crown Princess and Camilla and Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen joined the event. The women’s shelters value the backpacks, and it means a lot that they are able to provide the children with a backpack when they arrive to the shelters.

We usually use the backpacks shortly after a family has arrived to the shelter. It is a very good opportunity to initiate a relation between the pedagogical staff and the child. We experience that both the children and the mothers appreciate the backpack, and it brings them great joy,” says one of the women’s shelters about the use of the backpacks.

An estimated 33.000 children in Denmark under the age of 15 are exposed to domestic violence. Recent surveys indicate that the number might even be higher. Domestic violence can have serious consequences for the children. A recent survey from SFI (The Danish National Centre for Social Research) shows that children exposed to domestic violence are more at risk of being taken into care and placed outside the home, being diagnosed with PTSD, and that they generally perform poorer academically at the final exams of secondary school (final exam of the 9th grade of Folkeskolen). The survey furthermore indicates that ”children who experience domestic violence are more likely to be victims of violence, also even though they haven’t experienced the violence on own body or soul”*.

The Mary Foundation is behind project ComfortPacks, supported by Ole Kirk’s Foundation and LOKK (National organisation of women's shelters in Denmark).

If you have questions, please contact:
Communication consultant Kristine Kornum. Mail: kk@maryfonden.dk.

*”Børn, der oplever vold i familien. Omfang og konsekvenser.” SFI, 2017 (only available in Danish)

Photo: Kåre Viemose