Children's 'witnessing' or exposure to domestic violence has been increasingly recognised as a form of child abuse, both in Australia and internationally.
Although it is difficult to accurately assess the scope of the problem, research has demonstrated that a substantial amount of domestic violence is witnessed by children. As this paper outlines, witnessing domestic violence can involve a range of incidents, ranging from the child 'only' hearing the violence, to the child being forced to participate in the violence or being used as part of a violent incident.
In this paper, current knowledge about the extent of children's exposure to domestic violence in Australia is described, along with the documented impacts that this exposure can have on children. This includes psychological and behavioural impacts, health and socioeconomic impacts, and its link to the intergenerational transmission of violence and re-victimisation. Current legislative and policy initiatives are then described and some community-based programs that have been introduced in Australia to address the problem of children's exposure to domestic violence are highlighted.
The paper concludes that initiatives focused on early intervention and holistic approaches to preventing and responding to children's exposure to domestic violence should be considered as part of strategies developed to address this problem.
Photo: horizontal.integration / flickr