In “Trends & issues in crime and criminal justice no. 419” Richards explores the issue of “Children’s exposure to domestic violence in Australia.” Children witnessing domestic violence is a major issue in Australia and across the globe. In addition it is also a form of child abuse with children suffering emotional damage as well as a host of psychological problems from having been exposed to the abuse. Researchers are not yet sure exactly how much the domestic abuse that the children are witnessing, however they have pointed out that they believe that children are witnessing a significant amount of domestic violence.
The outcomes of children experiencing domestic violence can include health impacts, behavioural problems and socio-economic impacts. Witnessing the abuse can also lead children to believe that abuse in the home is normal which will lead to them being more likely to perpetrate the violence when they get older. There are some initiatives that are being done to try to curb children’s exposure to domestic abuse and to also help them heal from the damage caused by witnessing domestic violence.
The paper outlines specifically what actions constitute the children’s exposure to domestic violence. These actions include:
– having to call emergency services for help
– seeing a parent being injured after a domestic violence incident
– having to help the parent with treating the injuries caused by the domestic abuse
– having to deal with the perpetrator of the violence who can often change between being caring to causing the violence in the home
– seeing a parent get arrested
– having to leave the home due to an incident which commonly involves separation from other family members, school friends and other friends.
The study also focuses on the difficulties with measuring the exposure to the violence because of the fact that the data is not commonly collected and in addition domestic violence as a whole often goes under-reported.
The behavioural impacts on children that have been exposed to domestic violence are numerous. These impacts include:
- trauma symptoms
- increased aggression
- antisocial behaviour
- lower social competence
- temperament problems
- low self-esteem
- the presence of pervasive fear
- mood problems
- school problems
- conflict with peers
- impaired cognitive functioning
- substance abuse
- eating disorders
- teenage pregnancy
- leaving school early
- suicide attempts
- delinquency and violence.
However additional studies indicate that the age of the children plays a large role in the child’s ability to recover and not be adversely affected by the violence. The younger the children are when they witness the violence, the higher the likelihood there is that they can recover without as profound of adverse affects. The children were also more likely to fair better if they have social support. The differences in how children cope with the domestic violence aftermath also depends on the child’s gender and the child’s coping abilities.
Here is a list of all of the different initiates that have been put into place to help children recover from domestic abuse by territory.
- NSW – Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007
- ACT – Children and Young People Act 2008
- Vic – Family Violence Protection Act 2008
- Qld – Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 1989
- WA – Restraining Orders Act 1997
- SA – Intervention Orders (Prevention of Abuse) Act 2009
- Tas – Children, Young Persons and their Families Act 1997
- Tas – Family Violence Act 2004
- NT – Care and Protection of Children Act 2007
- NT – Domestic and Family Violence Act 2007