If you think our governments are pretty terrible at dealing with the crisis of violence against women in Australia, you will be shocked at the way in which children, both as victims and as survivors, are ignored.
Maybe you will also be surprised that violence begets violence. You give as bad as you get.
Six years ago now, Victoria's Royal Commission into Family Violence, a groundbreaking investigation, recommended children should be seen, heard, supported. That is the only way in which the cycle of violence will ever be ended in this country. It all starts at the beginning of our lives. As a brand new report into adolescent family violence reveals, young people who are violent towards members of their own family are desperate for help.
There is none to be found. That next National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children 2022-2032, set to be released later this month, better live up to its draft promise to invest in supporting children to survive and recover from violence.
Kate Fitz-Gibbon and her team at the Monash Gender and Family Violence Prevention Centre have broken new ground with their research for ANROWS which reveals young people trapped in this cycle of violence want help.
We know that one in five adolescents use violence against parents, siblings and carers - and mothers and siblings are most at risk of harm. Half of those who admit to using violence use it against their mothers. Devastating for the mothers - and terrifying for the children. Out of control and in need of support. This is what intergenerational violence looks like. They reveal their actions to others - but it is most likely to be someone in the family, someone who can't really know how to fix or how to help.
As Fitz-Gibbon says: "We saw a staggering overlap between young people's experiences of family violence and their subsequent use of family violence in their childhood.
"They reflected on seeing and experiencing violence and then using those same behaviours."
These young people told the researchers what was really needed. A safe space or place, someone to talk to, professional help. They needed their mothers to understand them - a tough ask in this circle of hurt. Of course, schools could do better (and we already ask schools to do so much. Recall that across the country there is a massive shortage of school counsellors).
And they want their parents and carers to understand what abusive behaviours look like and how it feels to be on the receiving end. Those in most dire need were young people with a disability. One 16-year-old girl told the researchers: "My parents are not well educated on mental health disorders, and this in turn made it very hard for them to understand that what they were doing was actually hurting me."
But the most alarming thing we read in this report is what we could describe as the transfer of violence - 70 per cent of young people with a disability said they had experienced child abuse before the age of 18 and nearly half of those in turn used violence against others. Over half of the First Nations respondents in the survey said they had experienced child abuse before the age of 18 and nearly one-quarter of had used violence at home.
The patterns were similar for gender-diverse kids, for those from a non-English speaking background. They are all crying out for help.
Fitz-Gibbon says researchers heard the same stories over and over again.
"Young people want validation, they want to know that what they experienced isn't normal," she says. "At the first point of disclosure, the system is failing. They want support from a trusted person in their lives and to know that what happened to them is not their fault."
Cathy Humphreys, professor in social work at the University of Melbourne and co-chair of the Melbourne Research Alliance to End Violence Against Women and their Children, has been calling for change forever. She says we don't have enough resources at any level for children and young people in their recovery from abuse and their protection from ongoing abuse. And she says family law has much to answer for.
"The way in which we insist on children and young people spending time with fathers who use violence is a travesty, particularly those fathers who have had no effective intervention on their violence," she says.
"Our research shows children are just as traumatised as their mothers by family violence and they should not be expected to visit and spend time with fathers who are violent and abusive."
Humphreys says there are so many clear indications our children are suffering. Those who perpetrate harmful sexual behaviours are crying out for both help and for reparation for the harm they have experienced themselves. Remember? You give as bad as you get. And young people (make that all of us) urgently need help to deal with pornography and its impacts.
The National Community Attitude Surveys which ANROWS conducts are not showing much, if any, impact from rising consciousness about violence. Humphreys says she only hopes the next round of surveys, including the Australian Bureau of Statistics' Personal Safety Survey, will show the beginning of a shift.
Fitz-Gibbon says the stories the adolescents shared were heartbreaking, young people who felt their lives were hopeless and who had no-one to turn to.
As one young girl who experienced abuse at home revealed, she just needed "someone to talk to. Someone who knew it was wrong and told me that it was wrong. Someone who actually loved me and cared about me".
It's good to know the Minister for Social Services Amanda Rishworth says tackling domestic and family violence is a priority for the Albanese government. Now she needs to take Kate Fitz-Gibbon's advice: "We need to invest in developing responses that prioritise children's needs."
And that makes the next national plan absolutely critical to make kids safe.
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