Children direct victims of domestic violence

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There is the perception that domestic violence primarily takes place between couples. As a result little attention has been given to children, who are either direct or indirect victims of abuse and rarely the first demographic we think of when addressing this issue.

While no form of domestic violence is acceptable, this stigma creates a number of barriers when creating awareness about domestic violence through statistics.

Retired Senior Sargent of Crestmead Police Station Rob Mulhern, reviewed domestic violence cases for six years within the Logan area. Mr Mulhern said despite the push to encourage victims to come forward, the number of cases involving children was difficult to measure.

“When it comes to domestic violence statistics, you have to be very guarded. People define domestic violence differently depending on the exposure of education they’ve had, therefore making stats fluid,” Mr Mulhern said.

Children are the unheard victims of domestic violence
Children are the unheard victims of domestic violence. Source: Michaela Petrofes

In the Logan area alone, Mr Mulhern would receive at least one to two domestic violence cases each day.

Although domestic violence education and awareness campaigns have increased over the years, Mr Mulhern said it remains disheartening how many people ‘justify’ incidents and relabel the abuse as anything other than domestic violence.

“We [police] don’t receive a lot of feedback from support groups for confidentially reasons, so when trying to bring awareness through statistics, we really struggle,” Mr Mulhern said.

“It’s surprising how many people will change their minds and relabel their situation when it comes to reporting domestic violence to the police. Of course we’re here to help but some demographics are still very uneducated on the issue.”

This was the case for Emily* whom from an early age experienced domestic violence second hand.

Abusers hold grips on their victims, in more than just a physical way. Source: Michaela Petrofes.
Abusers hold grips on their victims, in more than just a physical way. Source: Michaela Petrofes.

Her mother’s then partner would abuse her brother when her and him would have run-of-the-mill sibling arguments.

“Mum’s partner would say he did it for me, because he loved me,” Emily said.

“I was blamed in an extremely backhanded way for the way my brother was treated.

“So while my brother was being verbally and physically abused, I was being emotionally abused in a twisted way.”

As Emily was so young when the abuse began, growing up and going through the process of dealing with her abuse was difficult, as she remained uncertain whether it was classified as domestic violence.

“I didn’t know who to turn to for help. I was so young and vulnerable and uneducated about what classified as domestic violence that even just a few years ago I struggled with the term of domestic violence and if I was a victim,” Emily said.

Now Emily wishes she then knew that domestic violence stemmed to all parts of the meaning ‘domestic’.

“Whenever told about domestic violence, it was only ever stories and statistics of men beating woman. Which is never okay,” Emily said.

“…But no one had told me about experiences similar to mine, leading me to believe I had just drawn some sort of short straw in life and had to deal with it on my own.”

Mr Mulhern said experiences like Emily’s are not uncommon.

“A lot of the statistics are based around partner abuse. When it’s a new male or female figure brought into a child’s life, the biological parent will often turn a blind eye to the situation to try and preserve the relationship they have with the abuser,” Mr Mulhern said.

Emily has now sought help for the emotional damage her abuse has caused her and wants to help spread awareness about all forms of domestic violence.

“As much as I love my mum, it makes me angry to think she repeatedly put us in that

Black Dot Campaign aims to raise awareness on social media of domestic violence
Black Dot Campaign aims to raise awareness on social media of domestic violence. Source: Michaela Petrofes

position, that’s also an angle that needs to be addressed for others in this situation,” Emily said.

“The act of domestic violence needs to be publicly defined in a way that includes all forms of abusers and victims so that we can move forward as a community.”

*Name has been changed to protect the identity of the source.

If you or anyone you know is experiencing domestic violence in any capacity you should reach out for support.

In an emergency dial 000

DV ConnectDVconnect : 1800 811 811

Mensline: 1800 600 636

Sexual Assault line 1800 010 120