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Domestic and family violence: Impacts on our children
Content warning: Domestic and family violence.
“Sometimes my children blame me for the breakdown of our relationship and get worried their father is going to jail…”
HerCanberra is proud to partner with Domestic Violence Crisis Service ACT’s (DVCS) Voices for Change Advocates to publish a story each eight to ten weeks on a different sub-topic on the impacts domestic and family violence has had on their lives.
There are six Advocates; Jess, Kristen, Lula, Michelle, Monique and Teyarna. Each of the Advocates have had very unique experiences.
But they do have one thing in common: their desire for the end of domestic and family violence within our community and their hope that by sharing their stories they can continue the work being done and already done by so many working in this field.
For this editorial, four of the Advocates have shared how the violence they experienced has impacted their children.
To protect the privacy of the Advocates, and their children, we will refer to the Advocates as Advocate One, Advocate Two etc.
There is a lot of evidence on how domestic and family violence impacts children, whether they be physically assaulted, witness violence or are impacted by non-physical violence. None of the Advocates’ children were physically assaulted, but they were witnesses to physical and non-physical violence perpetrated towards their mothers, the Advocates.
Advocate Three told us “My child became my protector. He would ensure I was ok. He stepped in and physically removed the perpetrator away from me. My other child is always checking up on me, even though I would consider myself safe at the moment.”
Advocate Four shared “Every time my child sees me crying, even when it is happy crying, they will recall a time that their father did something to make me cry. They will say something like, remember that time you cried when Daddy whipped you with his jeans buckle?”
Advocate One, with tears in her eyes, told us, “My children have pulled their hair out and poked sharp objects into their legs. I’ve found one of them banging their head on the ground and hitting their head. The self-harm is just heartbreaking. They also experience frequent headaches, stomach aches and generally feeling sick. Especially on days when they are due to spend time with their father.”
Advocate One told us “My children panic when I leave the room without telling them. They hate being in a room by themselves. They can’t go to the toilet on their own.” Advocate Three’s children have similar feelings of discomfort when in a room by themselves.
The psychological and emotional impacts are varied, but also consistent.
Advocate Two told us “My child exhibits anxiety and can be triggered by loud voices and noises. This means she is unable to watch some type of movies. She is also hyper-vigilant. You know, being aware of her surroundings, personal safety, how she wears her hair, coats and bag.”
Advocate One agreed, saying “My children are sensitive to noise, particularly loud noises and yelling voices.”
Bedtime can be difficult in most of the Advocates’ homes. “Bedwetting, even after being toilet trained, night terrors and hearing voices is a problem that we are working through. They can’t go to sleep on their own either,” Advocate One told us.
The ongoing relationship between the children, their father and others in their lives is also problematic. Advocate Two told us “My daughter has difficulty trusting men. She also doesn’t like big groups of men, so taking her to a football game, for example, is really difficult.”
Advocate One also spoke about problems, “Sometimes my children blame me for the breakdown of our relationship and get worried their father is going to jail. Sometimes they are scared to visit him and don’t want to go to his house.”
Both Advocates One and Four spoke of their children being aggressive towards them.
Their children witnessed physical violence towards them, so now they copy those behaviours.
Advocate Four told us “My son has taken on some of his father’s behaviours, including the need to always have the last word, calling his siblings names and not having empathy for their feelings. I recall a time when I was still with my ex-partner and he punched a hole in the wall.
He left blood on the wall. Our child said, ‘Wow Daddy is so strong he punched holes through the walls like the Hulk. He has superhero powers’.”
Sadly, like most traumatic events in children and young people’s lives, these experiences are impacting their education.
All the Advocates agreed there are many days when their children don’t want to go to school and it is a struggle to get them there.
“My daughter had to readjust her timetable to ensure she could catch a different bus to avoid running into the perpetrator and she was so embarrassed when I had to notify the school of the Family Violence Order I had obtained to protect her and I,” Advocate Three told us.
Advocates One and Four noticed their children’s grades had dropped and they were getting in trouble for disruptive behaviour.
“Having previously never been in trouble at school, he is getting into trouble more often, with each incident relating to name calling, fighting and arguing and not being able to walk away from someone he finds annoying.”
There are 20 children between all of the Advocates (five are not from their abusive relationships) and all of these children are impacted in one way or another.
They have experienced trauma they will live with for the rest of their lives, but having the support of their mothers, families, school and other professionals working in this area the Advocates are hopeful they can heal and move forward.
Additionally, DVCS can provide support and referrals to people seeking help for their children and young people via their 24/7 crisis intervention line on 02 6280 0900. Young people are also welcome to contact DVCS.
If you are concerned about your safety or not sure what you are experiencing, or worried about the safety of a friend, colleague or family member, we encourage you contact DVCS on their 24/7 crisis intervention line on 02 6280 0900 or visit their website dvcs.org.au.
HerCanberra is a proud supporter of Domestic Violence Crisis Service ACT.