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Domestic violence hurts children

domestic; violence; effects; children;

Domestic violence (DV) can involve emotional, physical, sexual, social (isolation) and financial (control of money) abuse. Many children witness violence in their home and it can seriously affect them, and their future lives too.

1800RESPECT is a National Australian service to support people experiencing relationship violence. 
These pages include information on a range of help and support options for people experiencing sexual, domestic and family violence.
You can contact 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or through online chat

Raising Children Network The Raising Children website is produced with the help of an extensive network including the Australian Government.

More about family violence  

To find out more about family violence have a look at the Parent Easy Guide Family violence developed by Parenting SA

Parenting SA is a partnership between the Department for Education and the Women’s and Children’s Health Network. (South Australia)
Ph: 08 8303 1660

Parenting SA has many other Parent Easy Guides including - Child abuse.


Most people argue with other people in their family from time to time. Parents may argue about money, the children and household jobs; children fight about any number of things.

Sometimes arguments in families get out of hand (escalate) – one person becomes scary and the other is scared and can be hurt. Many children witness violence in their home and it can seriously affect them, and their future lives too. Sometimes children are the victims of a violent person, or are used as hostages to control another adult.

Domestic violence (DV) can involve emotional, physical, sexual, social (isolation) and financial (control of money) abuse. There is more information in the topic 'Family violence'.

Children worry about people fighting at home

  • They don't forget things they see, like mum being hit or parents yelling at each other. 
  • The effects can be different for children of different ages, sex and position in the family. 
  • Children can feel guilty because they think they are partly to blame. It is never the child's fault. 
  • Children may think if they don't say anything or stay out of the way it could be better. 
  • They can feel powerless because they can't make it stop. 
  • They can feel they have to protect the scared parent or other children in the family.

Some effects on children

These may be some of the effects of domestic violence on children.

  • Sleep problems and nightmares 
  • Slowing of development (developmental delay) – maybe not talking clearly 
  • Acting younger than they have been – maybe wetting the bed again 
  • Not doing so well at school – can't concentrate 
  • Being anxious and afraid 
  • Feeling less confident and less able to cope with things in their life 
  • Changes in how they behave - perhaps being quiet and withdrawn when they used to be happy and outgoing, perhaps being angry and hurting other children
  • Headaches, tummy pain, stuttering 
  • Missing school to be with the parent who has been hurt 
  • Cruelty to animals 
  • Running away from home or being too frightened to go home 
  • Substance use such as smoking, drinking alcohol or taking other drugs.

When children see violence early in their life they may come to accept that violent behaviour is normal. They may learn that it is how you go about solving problems in families and copy when they are older. They may also enter relationships where they accept violence from their partner.

While some people who are violent have seen violence at home when they were children, not all children who have witnessed violence become violent themselves.

What you could do

If you are the victim of domestic violence you may feel very guilty about what is happening – remember you are not to blame. There are people who can help you.

For children:

  • Try to help children to talk about things they are worried about. Often children are frightened about what might happen if they talk about the violence in their home. They may be ashamed about it. They may not feel it is safe to talk, even to their friends. 
  • Make sure a child knows it is not his or her fault even if an adult excuses violence by saying things like, ”You make me…”. People make their own choices on how they behave. 
  • Let the child know that he or she is not alone. Talk about their trusted adults – maybe aunts, uncles, grandparents, their teacher, school counsellor or a neighbour. 
  • Help them make a safety plan for themselves, and if they are older, maybe they could help their younger brothers or sisters make safety plans.  
  • Give them information about where they can get help, and also where others in their family, for example their mother, can get help.

Who to call

Australian Government  1800RESPECT

Children, teenagers and young people from 5 to 25 years in Australia can call the Kid's Helpline 1800 55 1800 or in

They can also call the police if they feel in danger, or if someone else is in danger: 000 in an emergency or 131 444 for attendance

South Australia

Domestic Violence and Aboriginal Family Violence Gateway (for women and men) 

  • Counselling and support for victims of domestic violence
  • Emergency accommodation, referrals, links to women's shelters.
  • 7 days a week on 1800 800 098 - 24 hours

More information 

To find out more about family violence have a look at the Parent Easy Guide Family violence developed by Parenting SA  

Raising Children Network http://raisingchildren.net.au/

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The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Parent Helpline on 1300 364 100 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).

This topic may use 'he' and 'she' in turn - please change to suit your child's sex.

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