Children should have every opportunity to be safe and have secure and healthy relationships, especially in their own homes. They have the right to grow up in a nurturing environment, with loving parents, a strong support network and a warm community.
Unfortunately, not all children get to experience this right. Each year, 1 in 4 children in Australia are exposed to domestic violence. Over 50% of women experiencing domestic and family violence have children in care and domestic and family violence is also the leading cause of homelessness for women and children in Australia.
Where domestic or family violence exists, the home is not safe or secure for children. Living with domestic and family violence can cause long-lasting harm to children and young people and has long-term consequences on their wellbeing and future relationships. While children can be incredibly resilient, the impacts of family violence often affect them for the rest of their lives. How domestic and family affects young people and children is a conversation that needs to be discussed within the community, both on a wider level and with young people themselves.
How Domestic and Family Violence Affects Young People
In an environment where domestic or family violence is present, children and young people often hear, witness, are exposed to or are even targeted by the effects of the violence. Family and domestic violence can include physical, emotional, financial, social, financial, verbal spiritual and elder or child abuse. Being exposed to family violence of any kind, directly or indirectly, can have serious, long-term impacts on every aspect of a child’s wellbeing – their physical and emotional health, psychological and developmental journey and connection to their culture and faith.
Young women especially are vulnerable to domestic and family violence, as negative attitudes about relationships and gender contribute to violence against women. Young people are also new to relationships, making it hard for them to understand what is acceptable behaviour or what domestic violence might look like in their and others’ relationships.
However, finding family and domestic violence services that are accessible and specific to young people is not always easy. Young people of culturally and linguistically diverse and faith-based backgrounds, in particular, have a difficult time finding services that can understand their situation and are sensitive and respectful of their unique background.
When it comes to family and domestic violence, young people have very different experiences from adults as are still learning about themselves and the world around them. With their unique struggles, it’s important to recognise children and young people as domestic and family violence victim-survivors in their own right, not extensions of their parents or carers.
How Community Can Help Young People Affected by Domestic and Family Violence
Children and young people experiencing domestic and family violence need spaces where they can feel heard and seen in their own right. Young people from CALD and faith-based families, in particular, need services in their communities that implement and advocate for culturally and religiously appropriate domestic and violence services that deliver them holistic support options.
For over 35 years, MWA has been listening to, responding to and supporting families, especially from CALD and faith-based backgrounds, within our community who have been affected by the experience of domestic and family violence. In our services, we aim to provide intensive support for those most in need, including individualized case management for women and children. We work in a manner that prioritises the safety and best interests of these families and their children. This includes facilitating their access to housing, legal, migration, financial, employment, educational and spiritual services, as well as providing community-based programs and initiatives that empower families, women and children.
MWA has always been passionate about giving young people a voice and an opportunity to talk in a safe space about the challenges, issues or barriers they face. A welcoming space where they can reach out to someone who “speaks their language” and understand where they’re coming from, especially if they’ve experienced complex trauma through circumstances such as domestic and family violence.
Opening the conversation on domestic and family violence in the community isn’t easy, but providing safe spaces for those, especially young people, who are affected to talk about their experiences is a step towards making a difference.
When we provide young people with the knowledge and skills to be active among their peers as well as within their wider community, we create opportunities for our youth to feel empowered, supported and encouraged to make changes that could better help others. And when it comes to domestic and family violence prevention and early intervention, MWA will continue to support young people in the most effective ways, and raise their issues of concern when and where needed.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic or family violence, it is critical to remember that it is not their or your fault and that support is always available. We encourage you to get in touch with us and we will do everything in our power to help. You are never alone – together, we are better.