For too many children, home is far from a safe haven. According to the Personal Safety Survey (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2006), more than one million Australian children are affected by domestic violence. These experiences however are far more extensive and ongoing than simply witnessing or directly experiencing violence and can specifically include the abuser’s use of a child in perpetrating violence towards their partner by initiating threats as another method to exert further control.
With more than two decades of international research definitively showing that infants, children and adolescents experience serious negative psychological, emotional, social and developmental impacts to their wellbeing from the traumatic ongoing experiences of domestic violence, it is important to recognise the vast array of direct and indirect effects that domestic violence has on children. According to the Unicef report“Behind Closed Doors: The Impact of Domestic Violence on Children”, there is a strong likelihood that children who witness or are subject to domestic violence within the home will continue the cycle of violence by becoming either a perpetrator or a victim of abuse later in life. Children who are seen to grow up in a violent environment risk inherently learning early lessons about the use of violence in interpersonal relationships as means to dominate others and exert power.
In order to prevent and deter both short and long term effects of domestic violence on children, it is important to enlist early intervention mechanisms and generate broader awareness to the issue through educational programs. By additionally increasing the number of resources and support services available to children who may be trapped in an unhealthy family dynamic, we are able to hopefully reduce the vicious cycle of violence and provide a safe and secure home environment that every child deserves.