Kids casualties too when it comes to domestic violence

Social worker Seremonde Hobby, doctors John O'Hare and Gillian Porter and nurse Keith White. Picture: Matt Jelonek d445821
Social worker Seremonde Hobby, doctors John O'Hare and Gillian Porter and nurse Keith White. Picture: Matt Jelonek d445821

CHILDREN who are exposed to domestic violence are at higher risk of physical, social and psychological harm, says Armadale Health Service principal social worker Ivy Vukovich.

“There is a misconception that violence does not impact children just because they may not have seen the violent incident,” she said.

“Children can hear the incident, see injuries and the traumatic impact on the victim.

“A significant part of our role is focused on protecting children as we recognise the short and long term negative impact that exposure to domestic violence can have on their wellbeing.”

Ms Vukovich said Family and Domestic Violence (FDV) could also contribute to homelessness, neglect, unpredictability, poor school attendance and poor concentration as well as sleep deprivation, anxiety and depression.

“Children become more vulnerable to harm especially when drug and alcohol use is involved and tend to blame themselves or feel responsible for protecting their mother (or father) and siblings,” she said.

“They can sometimes be made to ‘spy’ on their mother and siblings or are used in threats towards the mother.

“This creates an unhealthy understanding in the child of what a relationship involves.”

To prevent the alarming cases of domestic violence and the ongoing effects it has on children as well as the victims, Ms Vukovich said society needed to continue to raise awareness about the issue and provide education and support to those experiencing FDV.

“White Ribbon Day and other community events are essential in keeping FDV in the forefront of our minds.

“It is an opportunity for society to make a stand against FDV and to say that there are no circumstances where it is acceptable to cause harm or fear towards another.

“It also educates perpetrators that violence, aggression, controlling and intimidating behaviour is not acceptable and there is support available to help them address their behaviours and learn appropriate communication skills.”

Ms Vukovich works with a multidisciplinary team made up of doctors, nurses, security staff and other social workers at Armadale Health Service.

Their role is to ensure the immediate safety of women and children – and men in some instances – to meet their medical and social needs when they come to the hospital.

The social workers also help to develop post-discharge plans to reduce future risks of harm, including help in accessing safe refuge accommodation and support services.