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The need to respond proactively to trauma and violence in our society, as well as globally, has never been more urgent. From threats of terrorism, civil wars, genocide to those of domestic violence and child abuse we need to understand the impacts of trauma and address them. Repeated traumas reap havoc on individuals, families and societies, even after the overt threats have abated. Repercussions are cumulative, compounded and insidious.

Last week we saw communities unite against the ever-too present reality of violence against women. White Ribbon Day is a public expression of solidarity and collective action championing the need for respectful relationships and attitudinal change. Such movements help mobilise the collective support of the nation, which is often needed to garner the political will to mobilise a government response.

However the challenge is far more complex. Many women affected by domestic and family violence have children who, rather than simply being an addendum to the violence or passively witnessing it, experience violence directly or live in fear in their home, robbed of a sense of safety or protection. The longer the violence continues, the more likely it is to impact children’s attitudes and their sense of relationships and the world.

An estimated 30-60 per cent of families affected by domestic and family violence experience harm from other forms of child abuse. More than half (55 per cent) of Australian children who have experienced physical abuse are also exposed to domestic violence, while an estimated 40 per cent who have experienced sexual abuse are also exposed to domestic violence.

Family violence has potentially profound effects across the life cycle of an individual - from infancy, through childhood and adolescence, and even through to adulthood. Such trauma has long-term implications on self-esteem, relationships, physical and mental health, daily functioning. When those affected become parents, and have not had the right support to work through their issues, it often impacts the next generation. 

The focus on domestic and family violence is much needed and, in addition, at a time dominated by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse we need to extend the focus on the trauma children experience in abusive and violent families, neighbourhoods, institutions and communities. 

In a recent report commissioned by ASCA, an individual who has been abused or otherwise traumatised in childhood is at significantly higher risk of impaired social, emotional and cognitive wellbeing as an adult. They are also at a higher risk of adopting coping behaviours, such as alcohol and substance abuse, overeating and smoking, the harmful repercussions of which compound the propensity to mental illness, attempted suicide and suicide. Therefore we must offer the right support to the people across the life cycle who have experienced abuse or trauma in childhood so they get the opportunity to be safe, healthy and connected with their communities. 

These scourges thrive on secrecy, silence and the complicit hands-off bystander response, which has characterised our society until now. Compounding these factors is the appalling lack of accessible affordable specialist services. Lack of such services means that victims are not provided with the opportunities they need to rebuild their lives. Trauma is a public health issue of significant proportions and we need to respond in a coordinated informed and integrated way.

Our growing understanding of brain plasticity has established that possibilities for recovery are real. Critical to recovery are the positive relational experiences, which are central to wellbeing and a better future. Victims of all ages need to be and feel safe, and have opportunities to discuss, process and make sense of their experiences. Such support needs to come from the community, including from family and friends but also professionally.

The recent response by Minister Ley to the recommendations of the national mental health commission acknowledged the need for systems’ reform to address the severe and complex needs of many Australians who have previously not had their needs met – many of whom experienced child abuse or other forms of trauma. The recommendations of the Redress report from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse are for ongoing counselling and psychological care as and when and for as long as required for survivors of institutional child sexual abuse.

By addressing childhood trauma and abuse in adults, Australia can save an estimated $9.1 billion annually. It is time for a coordinated government response to the scourge of violence and abuse impacted on our children, which without the right interventions continues to play out, often for a lifetime. 

Help and support is available from the ASCA professional support line on 1300 657 380, 9am- 5pm Monday-Sunday.

The National Sexual Assault, Family & Domestic Violence Counselling Line – 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for any Australian who has experienced, or is at risk of, family and domestic violence and/or sexual assault.

Click here to read this article published in Women's Agenda>>


# Shauna
Sunday, 27 December 2015 5:36 PM
My experience with Domestic Violence 20 years ago, was that none of the authorities acknowledged the impact Of Domestic Violence on children. I was told that children forget, that they are resilient, and a little smack probably did more good for them then bad. Problem was, was there never ever was a 'little' smack. My children are now adults in their mid twenties, and one wont speak to his father, because he "remembers everything." He also knows from the studies out now, how the authorities 'allowed' his abusive father to beat him. He found the Psych subjects very informative at University! Now I still am trying to get my son to 'forgive' and 'let it go' because as his mum, it hurts to see my grown son with a bitter streak. I want him to be happy, but only he can decide this one. There where numerous mums that I came across whilst dealing with Domestic violence, and we all felt the same, how NO ONE wanted to acknowledge the effects of it on children, instead they kept insisting that children keep visiting their abusive fathers. So as single mothers, our children always had behavioural issues. Guess who got the blame for that, the god damned single mother! The father took no responsibility or blame for his abusive behaviour, and the mother was always under mined, by being labelled as 'weak' because of her loving, passive nature. I thought that was my role, to teach the child to love, and be kind, and nice, and how to socialise - not this violence rubbish that dad was allowed to perpetrate and get away with! I just knew within that there had to be a problem, within the child, long term with a violent parent. I never had to live like that, so I knew that this was bad for the children. Now it is acknowledged, and I am supposed to be grateful that the info is finally out there. I'm really angry that it took so long. The logic that as an adult, if we are exposed to violence, it does damage to us psychologically, but if the kids are with us during these violent episodes, that they won't be affected. As if some protective force field will magically surround the child and protect the child from the chaos, trauma, mayhem of the abusive father. What also astounded me, was the women who made statements like "he hit me, but he would never lay a finger on the children." Thats like passive smoking - same difference. When these men go on a rampage, they do it because it feels good! Out of control, limbic rush my foot! Punching up a women and children is a 'push over' for a man. Bullying. They know they are terrorising their family! It is about the man not being right in the head. I had to fight, run, hide, and use every resource, and idea available to me, to try and protect my children. No support from my family, more criticism. I eventually snapped psychologically. The weight, and duration off the fight wore me down. The officials in this country failed, failed and failed me and my children. I cry every day now. Then I get on with my day. I have raised the children on my own for twenty years, and I continue to do so today. I refuse to date or enter that world, as I was not going to have some stranger near my children to add to the damage, as men in this society get away with a lot, so I had to keep all other men away from my children. Majority of the time, in my experience, it was the men doing the damage, and getting away with it. So I stayed single. Single means one income. One income means borderline poverty. I do not qualify for any Government assistance. However, get a young family, earning over $100K, and they are deemed "vulnerable", because they have young children. Its more common knowledge that the 'expensive time' is when the children grow rapidly into young adults. So we continue to feel the fallout of Domestic Violence. We continue to be low income, because I choose not to date, marry or live with anyone else, but my children. My children choose to stay with me, rather than move out. We feel safer together. We look out for each other. We don't hurt or undermine each other. If they move out, Centrelink gives them more money. I don't see the difference. They still have to contribute to the running of the home. So if we total all our incomes and divide it by the number of people living in the house, and compare that to a two parents with young children, the result for my family will show just how 'vulnerable' we are. Servicing our car, buying new tyres, dental work, specialist medical services are all the issues, that bring extreme hardship to us, to the point of make or break. That is my experience of living with Domestic Violence in an advanced Nation like Australia - world leader indeed! Can't even look after the women and children.
# Kate
Sunday, 3 January 2016 8:58 PM
I agree with the points raised by Cathy. The long term effects of childhood abuse affect society, the work force and the quality of life for the adult survivor. Such a survivor myself, I know that my health, ability to reach my potential and my relationship with others has been compromised. It affects my work, as well. It is very hard to explain to anyone how I have been affected because it is seen as an excuse, or a victim mentality I willingly lock myself into. I would dearly love to know the sort of woman I'd be without the permanent damage of abuse.

If I feel I cannot even open up to people about the effects I live with, what hope do we have to raise awareness and find long term, effective solutions and support??
# Nerida
Tuesday, 2 February 2016 6:01 AM
I am only just realising that the man I was married to and defended to others for years is a monster. He turned my children against me and continues to twist and confuse their minds with lies 20 years after I left him. I thought he was changed (naively) and left my children with him when I had a psychotic breakdown. That all resulted in him making them think I rejected them when that was the last thing I wanted to do. I was an exhausted single parent who needed respite and asked for his help which he refused. Thankfully my children are living with me again but the damage caused by his lies about me still remain. He separated me from them and refused to let them show their need to see me while I was apart from them. I hope and pray that they will find healing for the damage caused by my separation from them. My children and I are still building up our relationship from the damage he caused.

I feel sorrow, grief and loss on a daily basis. He shows no remorse for the distress and abuse he caused our children to experience. In fact they feel responsible for him and his problems, as though he is the child. I'm afraid to tell them that they don't need to as he is a grown man (52), but if I do they will get angry at me and be defensive of him. Dear Lord Jesus please help my children to see the truth and be set free from this monster, to live happy and productive lives.
# Admin
Tuesday, 2 February 2016 1:43 PM
Dear Nerida,

Thank you for contacting Adults Surviving Child Abuse (ASCA) and for sharing some of your story. We are very sorry to read of the abuse you and your children have endured and we would be most happy to provide some support if you want.

ASCA provides short-term telephone counselling and information to adults affected by childhood trauma and abuse. When you call our 1300 support line: 1300 657 380 (Australia only), you can speak to one of our counsellors who will see how best they can help. If you would like to give us a call, our 1300 line is open 7 days a week between 9am and 5pm and is staffed by trained and experienced counsellors. If you would prefer us to call you, please email your contact details to and let us know the best time to call and if you are happy for us to leave a message.

Kinds regards,
The ASCA Team
Jackie Preston
# Jackie Preston
Thursday, 12 May 2016 7:49 PM
Sadly I am experiencing the same heartache, my son's are now 17and 25with addictions to marihuana and cigarettes.My heart breaks watching their struggle in life.My eldest just moved back home after a failed relationship.He has a narcissistic personality like his father and I'm having trouble dealing with this as it has been 12years since we separated and haven't had contact since.But unfortunately My son has the same personality as his father and I feel like I'm reliving my past!I really love my son and want to help him, but feel like I'm reliving past memories and am unsure of how to deal with this.I am afraid to speak to anyone about this for some reason it has been 12years on , but still feels very new.I feel vulnerable, but still love my son and want to help him.What do I do please help me!
Blue Knot Foundation
# Blue Knot Foundation
Monday, 16 May 2016 3:28 PM
Dear Jackie,

Thank you for contacting Blue Knot Foundation and sharing a bit of your story. We are very sorry to read about the experiences your family has endured.

If you would like to call the Blue Knot Helpline on 1300 657 380 9am-5pm 7 days week (Australia only), one of our trained and experienced counsellors would be very happy to support you through this difficult time.

If you would like us to give you a call, please email across your contact details to and let us know if it is okay to leave you a message.

Blue Knot Foundation also has a database of organisations, as well as clinicians including psychologists, counsellors, social workers and psychotherapists who have specialist knowledge of childhood trauma. We can certainly assist you in looking for a therapist in your local area if that is something you wish to do.

Kind regards,
Blue Knot Foundation
# lisa
Tuesday, 28 March 2017 4:49 PM
I have alway's known that it had an effect on me as a child I am now in my 40's and it still affects me I have lived with cronic deppression and have been diagnosed with a plethera of things from PTSD to major deppressive disorder to bi-polar disorder, I have a hard time being close to people because I dont really trust anyone and believe given the chance a person will always eventually let you down or hurt you. I have a fear of being alone which has caused me to endure relationships that were probably bad for me, I become aggitated easily and sometimes when I am angry I yell and cry at the same time and I cant manage to stop it once it starts. On a possitive note I have never been violent with a family member and I have learned to walk away from situations that make me axious enough to start yelling until I can think straight and deal with the issue but its taken me a long time to learn how to do that. I laways wonder who I would have been had I not been subjected to violence at such an early age. So for the people out there who think children dont remember or that it wont affect them I am hear to tell you that it will and they dont forget so if your children have seen this kind of thing get them some help before they grow up to be like me always nervous, anxious. deppressed and untrusting to the point of always feeling alone even when im not just because I cant be totally close to anyone.
Blue Knot Foundation
# Blue Knot Foundation
Wednesday, 29 March 2017 9:23 AM
Dear Lisa,

We are sorry to hear of your childhood experiences and the ways they have affected you. Thank you so much for sharing your reflections with others here. Please note for anyone who needs help, information, support or referral, they can call Blue Knot Helpline on 1300 657 380 or email between 9am-5pm Monday to Sunday AEST.

Kind regards,
Blue Knot Foundation

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Head to Health


“Blue Knot Foundation has a key role to play in the building of community capacity in care provision to those who have experienced childhood abuse and trauma in any environment.”

NIALL MULLIGAN Manager, Lifeline Northern Rivers

“I think Blue Knot Foundation is a fantastic support organisation for people who have experienced childhood trauma/abuse, for their families/close friends and for professionals who would like to learn how to more effectively work with these people.”

Psychologist Melbourne

“It's such a beautiful thing that you are doing. Helping people to get through this.”


“It was only last September when I discovered the Blue Knot Foundation website and I will never forget the feeling of support and empathy that I received when I finally made the first phone call to Blue Knot Helpline, which was also the first time I had ever spoken about my abuse.”


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