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Domestic and family violence is most often violent, abusive or controlling behaviour by a man towards a woman. What you may not realise, is that children also experience domestic violence. It affects their emotional and physical health and wellbeing. And it is a form of child abuse.

1 in 4 children experience domestic violence.
(Australian Domestic and Family Violence Clearinghouse 2011, The Impact of Domestic Violence on Children: A Literature Review)

Child protection and domestic violence

Reports to the Child Protection Helpline can be made about unborn babies, children and young people at risk of significant harm.

The law says a child or young person is at risk of significant harm (ROSH) if there is risk of serious physical or psychological harm resulting from domestic violence.

For example, a child could be injured by a punch intended for their mother or other member of the family. A child may also be frightened and traumatised from hearing or seeing violence, may not be able to sleep at night because of yelling and screaming or because they're scared the screaming and banging they hear is their mum getting hurt.

Children may also experience neglect. They may not get the care and supervision they need because their mum or main caregiver is stressed, anxious and has poor mental and physical health because of the violence and abuse. Or their mum may be using alcohol or drugs to cope with the violence and abuse, which makes it hard for her to care for them.

Read about other reasons you should call to report child abuse or neglect, and what information you need to make a report.

Domestic and family violence is the leading cause of homelessness for children in Australia.
(Bland & Shallcross, 2015; Spinney, 2013)

Impacts on children and young people

The impact of domestic and family violence in the home on children and young people is huge, and will most likely affect them for the rest of their lives. There are many ways that a child can be affected by the abuse and violence happening at their home, including:

  • emotional health and wellbeing – depression, developing extreme fears, not sleeping or eating properly, not being able to focus on school, bullying other kids, low self-esteem
  • physical harm – being physically threatened, pushed or punched, or getting hurt trying to stop the violence between the adults.

Young people who are experiencing abuse and violence are more likely to: suffer depression, be homeless, abuse alcohol and drugs, be risk takers, self-harm, experience or use violence, be abusive and violent in their relationships.

Read more about the impact of domestic and family violence on children and young people.

Watch 'Domestic and family violence: Children's safety'

(Video from 1800RESPECT)

What you can do

Call Police

If you fear for the child or woman's safety, call the Police using the Emergency line right away.

Emergency
000 

Police Non-emergency
131 444

Call the Child Protection Helpline

It's important that you make a report to the Child Protection Helpline, which is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The Helpline is staffed by child protection caseworkers who will record any concerns you have about a child or young person and their family. It is important to know that your concerns about violence in a family may be valuable in helping children and women to be safe. You can report information anonymously.

Child Protection Helpline
132 111

Give support

If you are concerned about the children and their mother, you can read about how you can support someone who may be experiencing domestic and family violence.

If you're not sure what you should do, you can discuss the situation with one of these domestic and family violence support services. They are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Domestic Violence Line
1800 65 64 63

1800RESPECT
1800 737 732

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