As awareness of domestic violence grows, so too does the awareness of how family violence impacts upon the victims and society at large.There are not just physical and emotional impacts to victims, although these are real and important. There’s also the family violence impacts upon employers, the economy, and the law.
Family Violence Impacts: Children
A 2014 survey undertaken by Victoria Legal Aid has discovered that children who are victims of domestic violence are more like to get into trouble with the law as adults. The survey was conducted over a period of ten years of half a million clients to map how often people were using their services.
The survey found that the majority of clients who used their services many times as an adult had come into contact with Legal Aid before the age of 18. Some had been as young as ten years old. The director of family, youth and children’s law at Victoria Legal Aid, Nicole Rich, said that a very high proportion of these clients had experienced family violence and that a significant number had a mental illness.
She said that the findings reveal the vulnerability of some of their clients. “A bad start to life…can set you up for having some pretty poor outcomes in the future. It really reinforces the need for early intervention and support services to be put in place…to break the cycle.”
Fiona McCormack from Domestic Violence Victoria says that counselling services for child victims of domestic violence are absolutely inundated. She said that family violence forces thousands of women and children out of their homes every year, with education and community support interrupted. Often the victims of domestic violence face additional problems including chronic poverty and homelessness, which leads to children being disadvantaged from a very young age.
We know that early intervention is the key to breaking family violence and it’s consequences for children.
Family Violence Impacts: the Economy
The total cost of domestic violence to victims, perpetrators, friends and families, communities, government and the private sector was estimated to be in excess of $8 billion (Access Economics 2004). In 2008–09, the total cost of all violence against women and their children (including non-domestic violence) was estimated to have cost the Australian economy $13.6 billion and, if no action were to be taken to address the problem, will cost $15.6 billion in 2021–22 (KPMG Management Consulting 2009). This includes costs associated with:
- pain, suffering and premature mortality (which accounts for almost half of all associated costs);
- provision of health services;
- the impact on employment and productivity;
- replacing damaged property, defaulting on personal debts and moving;
- exposure to domestic violence among children, child protection services;
- the response of the criminal justice system, support services and prevention programs; and
- victim compensation and financial support from a range of sources.
Family Violence Impacts: Health
Domestic violence is associated with a range of health problems and is the single biggest health risk to Australian women aged 15 to 44 years. In 2006–07, one in five homicides involved intimate partners and more than half of all female victims were killed by their intimate partner. Between 1989 and 1998, 57 percent of female deaths caused by violence were perpetrated by an intimate partner and women were five times more likely to be killed by their partners than men (NSW Office for Women’s Policy 2008). Domestic violence has a significant impact on the general health and wellbeing of individuals by causing physical injury, anxiety, depression, impairing social skills and increasing the likelihood that they will engage in practices harmful to their health, such as self harm or substance abuse. Physical abuse also increases the risk of criminal offending and a significant proportion of women in prison have experienced some form of prior abuse, either as adults or children.
Family Violence Impacts: Homelessness
Domestic violence is also the most common factor contributing to homelessness among women and their children. They may be forced from their homes in order to escape violence, disrupting social support networks as well as children’s schooling and social networks. Women who have lived with a violent partner are also more likely to experience financial difficulties or hardship as a result of the relationship.
Family Violence Impacts: Child Abuse
There is also an association between domestic violence and child maltreatment (child physical, sexual and emotional abuse) and neglect, which is related to a range of negative physical, psychological and emotional consequences. There is some evidence that observing significant others being maltreated (especially siblings and parents) by someone with whom a child identifies with closely (ie a parent), is a more significant factor in the intergenerational transmission of violence than the child actually being maltreated her/himself.
Research has identified that many victims perceive the emotional impacts of both physical and non-physical abuse—such as their degree of fear, their partner’s intent to harm and their own self blame—as being more significant than any physical injuries incurred. The impact of violence can extend well beyond the period of abuse.