Domestic violence delivers a 'double whammy' of abuse and disadvantage

Domestic violence delivers a 'double whammy' of abuse and disadvantage

Media release — 9 December 2015

Children who are exposed to domestic violence in the home are more likely to experience other forms of maltreatment including sexual abuse, according to a new report released today by the Australian Institute of Family Studies.

The report, Children’s exposure to domestic and family violence draws on Australian and international research to examine the effects of domestic violence on children.

Domestic and family violence has been the ‘hot topic’ of 2015, yet the experiences of children have received less attention. The Institute’s Director, Anne Hollonds said research shows there is an overlap between domestic violence and child abuse leading to ‘cumulative harm’ in children.

“Children’s exposure to domestic violence affects children’s physical and mental wellbeing, cognitive development and academic success, and is the leading cause of homelessness for children,” she said.

“Of Australian women who experienced violence by a former partner, 61 per cent had children in their care at the time and half of the children had seen or heard the violence."

“This means a significant number of children are exposed to domestic violence. Sadly, research here and internationally has established that the children who grow up with violence at home are also more likely to experience other forms of maltreatment, such as sexual, physical and emotional abuse."

Ms Hollonds said the experiences and outcomes for children exposed to domestic violence have been poorly understood to date and are often underestimated. The vulnerability of dependent children means they are at risk of lifelong negative consequences affecting their physical and mental health, and social and cognitive development, as a result of early exposure to domestic violence and child abuse.

“This ‘multi-victimisation’ of children requires our urgent attention. Domestic violence and child abuse are often seen as separate problems but this research indicates that they frequently go hand-in-hand. A strong relationship with the non-offending parent seems to be a protective factor for resilience in children but we need skilled services available to provide the necessary support. Efforts to prevent or reduce the impact of these complex problems require improved co-ordination of policy enabling earlier action to protect and promote the wellbeing of Australia’s children.”

 Read CFCA Paper No. 36: Children's exposure to domestic and family violence: Key issues and responses

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