Farrah Tomazin; The Age Newspaper: 10-02-13

PARENTS are increasingly being attacked by their own children, with some cases so vicious the victims end up in hospital or take out restraining orders to protect themselves.

Figures show Victoria Police were called to 4017 family violence incidents over the past 12 months where an adolescent was the offender, and dozens of cases involving children as young as 10. An analysis of the data shows the number of adolescent attacks has increased by about 9 per cent every year since 2006, but experts admit the true extent of the problem is unknown because many parents are ashamed to speak out.

One mother, who did not wish to be named, spent three years dealing with a violent teenage daughter, who began having fits of rage from the age of 14. The mother said she did not know what sparked the aggression, but told Fairfax Media: ”She [the daughter] would get angry and strike out at her father, or with our eldest daughter – who was a very calm, collected girl – she would literally bash her up and try to strangle her. We had holes in the wall, windows broken, I was punched in the face …”It was a really terrible period to deal with, just for the fact that you feel quite helpless and like you’ve failed as a parent because you’ve got a child you can’t control.”

In a bid to curb the trend, the state government will spend $750,000 on a behaviour-change program designed to stop adolescent violence in the home and protect families. A three-year pilot will be run by Peninsula Health, covering the Frankston and Mornington Peninsula area.

Young people who are referred to the program by police and court authorities will be required to take part in an eight to 12-week program that focuses on understanding their anger and its triggers. Parents will at the same time attend group sessions focusing on building skills to cope, and undertake counselling with their child.

”By intervening early to support attitudinal and behavioural change in adolescents, we can reduce the risk of them graduating to other antisocial and violent behaviours – and enhance family safety,” Community Services Minister Mary Wooldridge said.

The manager of Peninsula Health’s drug and alcohol program and youth service, Jo Howard, said adolescent violence in the home was a growing problem, but authorities often struggled to tackle it. ”We know that police have very clear protocols about responding to family violence, but there appears to be a very mixed approach to adolescent violence in the home. We’re talking about high-level violence where parents feel very, very scared – stabbings, beatings, broken windows and smashed walls. But you don’t want to just move a 15-year-old kid from their family home if there’s nowhere safe for them to go.”

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