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Dominated by fear the impact of family violence on Children

28 September 2017, Impact of Our Work, Research and Reports

A child’s family home should be the place they feel safest. But, in their own homes and among their own family, children experience physical, sexual and emotional violence.

750,000 Australian women had children in their care when they experienced violence by a partner. Almost 80% said their children saw or heard the violence1.

Violence comes in many forms. Fear of abuse in the home is just one of them. It shatters dreams and devastates children’s lives. Help us stop violence against children – because if we don’t reach them fast, someone else will.

“I could see my children’s pain and that was the biggest catalyst over the top of losing my life. It was difficult because I was scared, I was petrified.” - Taliah, survivor of violence

One in three Australian women have experienced physical violence, and one in four Australian women have experienced emotional violence, most often from their partners2. This violence is harrowing for women. Too many are killed. And, too often, children are involved.

In the complex and messy landscape of family violence, it is critical to understand how children are impacted by domestic and family violence. While there are many ways for women to challenge violence – refuges, trauma counselling and legal support – children often fall through the cracks because parents can be too stressed in their own hellish experience to understand how their children are suffering, and children usually rely on their parents to access safety and counselling.

What family violence means for children

“His father was yelling at us … he kept coming up to us as though he was going to hit us. I was on the floor holding Lucas*. He must have felt my fear … he whimpered and then he yelped like a little puppy.” - Susan*, survivor of violence

A child’s family home should be the place they feel safest. But, in their own homes and among their own family, children experience physical, sexual and emotional violence. They witness violence between their parents and other adults. They can be blamed for violence that is inflicted on their family, and they can be blamed for families falling apart.

Violence can affect children’s ability to do well in school. In cases of financial violence, where the money is controlled and restricted, children can go without enough food or adequate clothes.

Children who witness violence in their homes are more likely to become violent or end up in violent relationships. They could experience health issues including trauma. It can destroy confidence and self-esteem. And it can end their ability to hope and dream.

What we are doing to help

“They’re screaming: ‘Where do I go when Mummy’s upset? What do I do? How do I look after Mum?’” - Tracey, Support Practitioner in a Save the Children refuge

Children who have experienced family violence are forced to grow up fast. When they flee violent situations, they are often in a state of shock and distress. They may feel a sense of responsibility over what’s happened. And they can also feel a sense of loss for the home, family, school and friends they’ve left behind. It’s a confusing time.

Save the Children run four refuges in Queensland where women and children can go for safety from violence. What is unique about Save the Children refuges is their focus on children, which is just as comprehensive as their focus on mothers.

Each of Save the Children’s refuges has a child-focused play space, as well as dedicated Support Workers who spend time with children, just playing or talking. All children who come through the refuges have their own case management plan, which meets the individual needs of a child who has experienced or witnessed family violence.

It can take weeks for children to open up, but once they do, a Child Support Worker is there to listen to their stories and help them find a way to hope and dream again.

Violence against children can manifest in many ways, but the devastating effect it has on children is universally unforgiving. Every child deserves a childhood, free from violence.

How you can help

You can help ensure every child has a childhood, free from violence. Donate now.

Need help?

Family violence can include physical, sexual, emotional and financial violence. All can have deep and damaging effects, and everyone has the right to be safe from violence.

If you, or someone you know, are experiencing family violence, call 1800RESPECT Australia-wide.

If you live in Queensland, call DV Connect on 1800 811 811. DV Connect is a 24-hour service that provides crisis support.

*Names have been changed

1Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS)
2Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS) 

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