Canberrans as young as 13 have recounted distressing experiences of family violence in a recent survey, with some saying they had no choice but to live on the streets or had to protect parents and siblings from abuse.
The report from the ACT Human Rights Commission and the ACT government surveyed 70 people aged 13 to 24 about their experience of family violence.
Now You Have Heard Us. What Will You Do? depicts the biggest struggles for young people caught up in violent households, and shows an urgent need for improved services, ACT Children and Young People Commissioner Jodie Griffiths-Cook said.
"We heard from young people who've had their lives endangered by a family member and received no support other than the initial police response," she said.
"Young people who regularly intervene to try and stop their fathers beating up their mothers; young people who protect their siblings; and so many other stories of survival and grief."
Ms Griffiths-Cook said the survey laid bare a lack of support for children and young adults, who often had nowhere to go and no one to talk to.
One respondent said: "When I was younger I could never go anywhere. I had to stay in the situation. My only escape was school. Then I was getting bullied at school so my escape was nowhere."
Another said they would get picked up by the police when they attempted to leave.
"That happened heaps of times...So they were taking me home, the exact place that was not safe."
Ms Griffiths- Cook said young people could lead the charge in determining the most effective way to improve services.
Respondents called for social workers to attend domestic violence incidents with police and for accessible crisis accommodation and safe spaces children could go without parental permission.
Ms Griffiths-Cook wanted the survey to prompt training for teachers and government workers to allow them to understand the experience of violence for children.
"Children and young people are experts in their own lives," she said.
"They understand what their own experiences are, this certainly highlighted the fact that children and young people experience family violence in a different way to adults.
"They know what's happening in their families, they know what they need to do to keep themselves safe, to keep their siblings safe, to keep the non-violent parent safe."
Several respondents said they felt isolated by the issue that had been largely silenced.
"People are too scared to talk about it and it could be the difference between someone living ... you could be saving a life," one young person said.
Another person said they felt sidelined: "They're still going to want to talk to the parents instead of you because they don't see you as you, they see the parents. They look through you and then when they want to talk to you they just talk to the parents."
Ms Griffiths-Cook said adults needed to step up to listen and support young people who felt stripped of a voice.
"We really need to step up now as a community," she said.
"It's up to adults to stop family violence. And when it happens, it's up to adults to make sure that children are seen and heard, and get the support they need," she said.
"These young people are working so hard to keep themselves and their siblings safe, often with no, or inadequate, support."
If you or anyone you know needs help you can contact Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732.