Family violence can include physical violence or threats, verbal abuse, emotional and physical abuse, sexual abuse and financial and social abuse.
What is family violence?
Family violence is behaviour towards a family member that may include:
- physical violence or threats of violence
- verbal abuse, including threats
- emotional or psychological abuse
- sexual abuse
- financial and social abuse.
A child’s exposure to family violence constitutes child abuse. This exposure can be very harmful and may result in long-term physical, psychological and emotional trauma. Action must be taken to protect the child, and to mitigate or limit their trauma.
The longer a child experiences or is exposed to family violence, the more harmful it is. This is why, if you suspect that a child is exposed to, or at risk of being exposed to family violence, it is critical to follow the Four Critical Actions for Schools: Responding to Incidents, Disclosures or Suspicions of Child Abuse | Word version
What are the physical indicators of family violence?
PHYSICAL indicators of family violence include (but are not limited to):
- speech disorders
- delays in physical development
- failure to thrive (without an organic cause)
- bruises, cuts or welts on facial areas, and other parts of the body including back, bottom, legs, arms and inner thighs
- any bruises or welts (old or new) in unusual configurations, or those that look like the object used to make the injury (such as fingerprints, handprints, buckles, iron or teeth)
- internal injuries
What are the behavioural indicators of family violence?
BEHAVIOURAL indicators of family violence include (but are not limited to):
- violent/aggressive behaviour and language
- depression and anxiety and suicidal thoughts
- appearing nervous and withdrawn, including wariness of adults
- difficulty adjusting to change
- psychosomatic illness
- bedwetting and sleeping disorders
- 'acting out', such as cruelty to animals
- extremely demanding, attention-seeking behaviour
- participating in dangerous risk-taking behaviours to impress peers
- overly compliant, shy, withdrawn, passive and uncommunicative behaviour
- taking on a caretaker role prematurely, trying to protect other family members
- embarrassment about family
- demonstrated fear of parents, carers or guardians, and of going home
- disengagement from school and/or poor academic outcomes
- parent-child conflict
For older children and young people indicators can also include:
- moving away/running away from home
- entering into a relationship early to escape the family home
- experiencing violence in their own dating relationships
- involvement in criminal activity
- alcohol and substance abuse
For more information about family violence, see: Department of Human Services - What is family violence?