every smack is a humiliation
Many children who witness domestic
violence have been found to have higher levels of behavioural and
emotional problems than other children. The impact varies according
to their age, sex, and role in the family.
Firstly we need to understand
and accept that witnessing domestic violence harms children.
- Feelings of fear, anger, depression, grief, shame, despair and distrust a sense of powerlessness;
- Physical reactions such as stomach cramps, headaches, sleeping and eating difficulties, frequent illness;
- Slowed developmental capacities such as poor school performance, low self-esteem, difficulty relating to peers substance abuse, glue sniffing;
- Behavioural problems such as running away from home, aggressive language and behaviour, acting out; and, most frighteningly,- Learning that violence is a legitimate means for resolving conflict, or for obtaining control of a situation.
Ways you can help a child who has witnessed domestic violence include:
- Explain things in language that children can understand tell them that the violence is not their fault;
- Give them permission to talk about the violence;
- Help make a safety plan which they can follow;
- Find them someone outside the family with whom they can share their feelings;
- Let them know that others have had similar experiences;
- Ring and discuss the situation with domestic violence and protective services to find out how else you can help the children.
information for mothers
"He hits me, but he's good to
the kids." This is commonly said by women subjected to domestic violence.
But by abusing you, the childrenís mother, he is not being "good to
the kids". Showing attention or affection to his children cannot make
up for denying them (through his violence) their right to a safe and
Concern for children is probably
a major factor (if not the major factor) in whether you decide to
separate, as it is for many women in abusive relationships.
- "How can I take them away from their dad whom they love, their home, their pets, their school?"
- "He says he will get custody of the kids."
- "Can I offer the kids anything better?"
- "Are we in more danger if we leave?"
If you are going to be able to help your kids you need to get help too. You can contact the following services;
- Even though your children may not have been in the room, they will have been able to sense the atmosphere, so if you can, explain to them what is happening let them know it is not their role to protect you;
- Let them know that you want to know how they feel;
- Assure them that feeling frightened, angry, confused or sad is normal in the situation; and- Find a trustworthy, sympathetic adult that the kids can talk to (ie; school counsellor, relative).
If you have separated, or are leaving the situation:
- Encourage your children to talk about how they are feeling;
- If you leave your home, take favourite toys and some of your childrenís other items;
- Seek parenting support;
- Contact domestic violence and / or legal services - The Family Law Act now considers the witnessing of domestic violence as harmful to children.
where to get help in australia
- Womenís Domestic Violence Crisis Service 24 hours - (03) 9329-8433 or toll free 1800 015 188 for callers in rural Victoria. Provides support, information and referral to womenís refuge (safe accommodation);
- Immigrant Womenís Domestic Violence Service (03) 9898 3145 (9.30 -5.30pm Mon - Fri) Provides support and information to immigrant women in refuges in their primary language. Will also provide telephone support and information to immigrant women not in refuge;
- Child Protection Crisis Line Phone - 131 278 24 hours, 7 days a week - receives notification and investigates allegations of child abuse;
- Kidís Help Line - 24 hours toll free - 1800 55 1800 - Counselling line for children 5 years to 18 years;
- The Police - for urgent attendance ring 000;
- For non-urgent police assistance contact your local police or the Community Policing Squad;
- Translating and Interpreting Service 131 450 or 1800 112 477 (24 hours) If you do not speak English you can ring this number and they can provide an interpreter.
Sites on the effects of domestic violence on children:
- The Kids and Domestic Violence Project An initiative of the Queensland government to document best practice with children and young people who have lived with domestic violence. The site provides facts & figures, information on the effects on kids, articles, newsletter, links, etc;
- General Information: Effects of Domestic Violence on Children Domestic Violence Team, Centre for Women's Health, Benevolent Society of NSW;
- Domestic Violence Resource Centre, Brisbane, Qld The Queensland service provides factsheets on domestic violence, and how it affects children, as well as information about their services;
- Domestic Violence Shelter Tour Site Based in USA, provides information about the effects of violence on children, and an art gallery of pictures by children who have witnessed domestic violence;
- Family Violence Prevention Fund USA site provides stories from survivors of domestic violence and people who grew up witnessing domestic violence;
- Fact Sheet: the Effect of Domestic Violence on Children New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. Includes statistics;
- Children and Family Violence: the unnoticed victims Gabrielle M. Maxwell, Office of the Commissioner for Children, New Zealand, May 1994. Research Paper;
- Domestic Violence as a Form of Child Abuse Identification and Prevention. Marianne James, Australian Institute of Criminology. Australian Institute of Family Studies National Child Protection Clearinghouse, July 1994;
- Children and Domestic Violence: risks and remedies By Barbara J. Hart Esq. (USA);
- Child Witness to Domestic Violence Kathryn Conroy, DSW, 1996. Paper summarises research in the area.
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