Ballarat family service organisations are imploring members of community to consider the innocent victims of family violence in the lead up to White Ribbon Day.
The impact of family violence on children is often forgotten, Child and Family Services (CAFS) program manager family violence services Sharon Fecteau says.
“The longer the period of time children and infants experience family violence the more impact it can have on their emotional development, social skills and learning ability,” she says.
“There is a whole spectrum of behavioural problems.”
Family violence counselling service 1800RESPECT recognises family violence can impact a child’s behaviour, development, relationships, emotions, learning, self-esteem and physical health.
Children unfortunately can get caught in the middle of separated parents where emotions run high and conflict can continue.Sharon Fecteau, CAFS Ballarat
Ms Fecteau revealed 75 to 80 per cent of families into contact with CAFS family services are currently experiencing or have experienced family violence.
But Ms Fecteau says it can be difficult to notice the signs a child is affected.
“We will often hear from teachers about children who are tired or missing school. They can be indicators of family violence at home where they are not able to get a good night's sleep,” she says.
“Some children become very withdrawn... Other children will act out in the other extreme and pick up aggressive and violent behaviours in their language and behaviour to others, copying what they see at home.
“It is important family services work with all services working with children to be aware of warning signs, red flags and know how to approach a child to have a conversation.”
Federation University associate professor Elisa Backer is completing a PhD on how equal shared parental responsibility impacts victims of family violence and their children post-separation.
She says it is common for children to experience great trauma after separation.
“An abusive and controlling person can continue using the relationship with the child as a tactic and that is very damaging for young children,” Dr Backer says.
“It can be very difficult for the child. Imagine seeing your father trying to harm your mother and then you are told you have to spend time with them. Your trust is destroyed and it can be confusing.”
Ms Fecteau says the best way to support children is to provide professionals who have contact with children, including teachers, kindergarten teachers and doctors with the tools to recognise early warning signs initiate discussions, while making sure appropriate services are in place for families and children in all areas.
Dr Backer will be speaking at Federation University about family violence on Friday November 23 from 11am to 12pm for White Ribbon Day at Ballarat Technology Park.
Contact 18000RESPECT for family violence help.