Written by Selim Ucar, Youth Street Services Manager, Humanity Matters
The month of May is Domestic Violence and Family Violence Prevention month, which aims to bring light to how the issue continues to impact thousands of people and families across the nation. Tragically, the issue of domestic violence and violence against women in Australia is still making headlines, with last year being the worst on record for domestic, family and sexual violence around Australia.
In March, we saw women across the country unite in the March4Justice to bring awareness to the range and volume of attacks women face every day at home, in the workplace, and even in our parliament.
And rightly so – our government, society, and business leaders must do more on this critical issue.
However, even if each of these parties collaborated and mobilised with this focus today, it wouldn’t be enough if they relied on the same methods that have been leaned on so far. A vital part of our society, who are deeply impacted by domestic violence and are too often overlooked, are our children.
Recent research highlights there are significant and long-term physical and psychological impacts of domestic violence on children, including those who experience family violence were almost three times more likely to experience poor mental health, high blood pressure and problems with sleeping than children who are not exposed to abuse. On top of this, domestic violence is one of the leading causes of homelessness for children in Australia.
These challenges children and young people face as a result of exposure to domestic violence within their homes, can be mitigated and addressed with better care and early intervention.
Looking at how the government tackles DV campaigns, we see children in the advertisements and messaging, but these campaigns clearly aim to gain the attention of adults, not children themselves. Where is the investment in educating children about domestic violence, how to reach out for help when times are tough at home, and how to emotionally and psychologically manage trauma?
When the trauma children go through is left unaddressed, we end up seeing them through our streetwork dropped out of school and disconnected with society, full of anger and resentment. Without then addressing this unresolved trauma, pent-up anger and disengagement from education and the broader community, these young people go on to entering their own domestic violence relationships as adults, both as victims and as perpetrators.
Most recently, we saw millions of dollars thrown down the drain with a government campaign aimed to educate young people about consent through milkshake-based analogies. Not only was this condescending, confusing, and misleading for any young people genuinely looking for information on this issue, it was also a clear demonstration of how little intention and capability the government has to directly speak with young people about important matters. While we of course don’t want to see these mistakes repeated, we can’t simply give up.
The government must do more, do better, and act now on effectively supporting and communicating with our youth, particularly those in marginalised communities to ensure they have the information and compassion we know is key to becoming healthy, constructive members of our society.