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Report reveals impact of family violence on children

Graphic: National Children’s Commissioner Megan Mitchell

National Children’s Commissioner said data in the Children’s Rights Report 2015 reveals the “shocking” prevalence of violence inflicting on children.

National Children's Commissioner Megan Mitchell said new data in the Children's Rights Report 2015 reveals the "shocking" prevalence of violence inflicted on children and young people by family members.

According to the report, one in 12 men and women experienced physical abuse by a family member, and one in 28 experienced sexual abuse by a family member, before the age of 15.

"Available Victims of Crime data for some jurisdictions further indicates that for the four year period to 2013, there were over 14,000 physical assaults and over 12,000 sexual assaults of children perpetrated by parents or other family members - mostly directed at younger children under nine years of age," Commissioner Mitchell said.

"For me these are shocking statistics that show just how many children are direct victims of violence in the home. Previous studies have also estimated that over 20% of children and young people have witnessed violence against a mother or step mother," she said

Commissioner Mitchell said the availability of information about children's exposure to domestic violence is extremely poor and in urgent need of remedy.

"So my first tranche of recommendations go to the need to undertake research and collect basic data about children's unique experiences of family and domestic violence," she said.

"Second, there is a clear need for early intervention, from a child's conception, especially in the early years of a child's life. In particular, we have called for routine screening and better information on family and domestic violence during pregnancy.

"Research is now clear that exposure to family violence can have significant negative impacts on the developmental trajectory of children, including in utero, and has been directly linked to mood and personality disorders, impaired cognitive functioning and learning, antisocial and aggressive behaviours, heightened anxiety and pervasive fear.

"These traumatic impacts are increasingly being recognised in children whether they are direct victims of family and domestic violence or bystanders to it."

Commissioner Mitchell said the experiences of children must be understood in their own right, and not just as part of an adult situation.

The Children's Rights Report 2015 is available on the website of the Australian Human Rights Commission.

Date: 7 December 2015

Source: Australian Human Rights Commission

Image credits

  1. National Children’s Commissioner Megan Mitchell - Australian Human Rights Commission