Children's Rights Commissioner urges national focus on children affected by domestic violence.

The Children’s Rights Commissioner is calling for a national focus on the needs of children affected by domestic violence, with new data showing one in 12 people have experienced physical abuse by a family member as a child.

The Children’s Rights Report being released today found one in every 28 people had also experienced sexual abuse as a child, while a further 23 per cent of children have witnessed violence against their mother.

“You can think about an average class of teenagers, that’s at least four or five kids in every class that have either witnessed or experienced violence as direct victims,” Commissioner Megan Mitchell said.

She said too often children who live in violent households are the silent, forgotten and invisible victims.

“People would be shocked at the statistics about how many victims of physical and sexual violence there are of children,” she said.

Ms Mitchell said family violence can have a devastating and long lasting impact.

“We know that early exposure to family violence can have lifelong implications in terms of physical and mental health, substance abuse, employment, capacity to form healthy relationships,” she said.

“But we also know that family violence can manifest itself negatively in child development, and has been directly linked to a range of mood and personality disorders, impaired cognitive functioning and learning anti-social and aggressive behaviour.

“These are not the conditions for children to thrive.


“At the end of the day as adults, I think we have to take accountability for our behaviour and its impact on children. This, for me, must be a national priority.”

So far today police in Australia would have dealt with on average 270 domestic violence matters.

Among the recommendations is a call for pregnant women to be routinely asked by health professionals whether they are experiencing domestic violence.

“We know pregnancy is a time of heightened risk for violence and we really need to be increasing the surveillance and support during that time,” Ms Mitchell said.

Children ‘not the focus’ of the domestic violence system.

Ms Mitchell said family violence against young people is an issue that is not fully understood or properly documented.

She said the children are often neglected by the system.


  • One in every 12 people has been physically abused by a family member as a child.
  • One in every 28 people has also experienced sexual abuse as a child.
  • 23 per cent of children have witnessed violence against their mother.

“Children kind of fall through the gaps and they’re a bit lost.”They’re not the focus of the domestic violence system primarily,” she said.

“They tend to get lost in family court proceedings, or they might have a response from the child protection system that, perversely, could remove them from the protecting parent.

“And all of these systems struggle to talk to each other and intersect with each other in ways that are helpful for the safety and wellbeing of the child.

“So we really need a national focus on the needs of children, a national systemic focus on the needs of children affected by family violence.”

This post originally appeared on the ABC.