Many victims who stay in a violent relationship often do so because they think it is best for the children of the relationship to be with both parents. Research shows that witnessing or experiencing domestic violence by children is a trauma similar to that experienced by people diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Children who live with family violence, whether they are experiencing abuse or witnessing abuse, are now viewed as victims in their own right. Recent research has shown that children do not automatically forget or grow out of the effects of living in a violent family situation. Further, children do not necessarily have to see violent acts to be traumatised; hearing violence from another room, viewing the physical injuries to the victim and living with the tension and vigilance present in a violent household traumatises children (S.H.E.: Domestic Violence & Children Report 2003, p.8). The report produced by S.H.E. (Support, Help and Empowerment) went on to list the behavioural effects of witnessing family violence on children which include:
- nervousness and anxiety
- withdrawn behaviour
- adjustment problems, fewer interests, diminished friendships
- restlessness/attention problems, recurrent intrusive thoughts, nightmares
- psychosomatic illnesses
- excessive cruelty to animals or younger children
- aggressive language and behaviour.
Children and Young Persons Program
Children and young people affected by family violence can be referred to the Family Violence Counselling and Support Service by Safe at Home service providers. Most children and young people will be referred via the Police, the Court Support and Liaison Service, the Child Witness pogram or by a Family Violence Worker who is already working with their parent or care-giver. Other children and young people will be referred via the DHHS Child Protection Advice and Referral Service (CPAARS) or DHHS Child Family Services.
The Australian Childhood Foundation provides information on children experiencing abuse.
Domestic Violence and Women's Physical Health is available on the Australian Domestic Violence Clearinghouse website. This 15-page report has a useful section on the effects of domestic violence in pregnancy.