Communities and Justice

I have children and I'm experiencing domestic violence

It’s hard being a parent when you’re living with domestic and family violence every single day. You’re probably trying to work out what’s best for your children while also trying to avoid more violence.

You may be afraid that he might hurt the kids if you don’t do what he tells you. You may be scared that if you run away with the children, he’ll find you, get custody of the kids, and never let you see them again. You may be fearful that your children might be taken away from you if you tell the police about the violence.

Or you may be thinking, “How can I take the children away from their father - they love him” or “How will I manage on my own when he earns all the money?”.

Children know what's going on

You are trying to protect the kids as best you can. Yet even if they’re not there to witness the violence or get hit and yelled at, they hear and they know what is happening even if they’re hiding in their bedrooms. This affects your child’s physical and emotional health and wellbeing.

Children can’t feel safe if you, their mum, is being hurt. They will feel sad, frightened or helpless. They may try to protect you, feel angry, blame you, or think the violence is their fault.

It's not your fault

You are not to blame. You and your kids have a right to be free from abuse and violence. No matter what you do, no one should hurt you or make you feel unworthy. You and your children deserve a safe and a happy home.

If someone is hurting you and treating you badly, they’re the ones doing the wrong thing. It's against the law to hurt another person, even when the person inflicting the violence is a partner, ex-partner, husband, brother, uncle or father.

Domestic violence can also include making threats about the custody of your children, and saying that the police and courts will not believe you or help you.

You can get help. It’s ok to ask for help. You are not alone.

What you can do for yourself

Talk to someone. Call a support service, they will listen to you. They want to help you and your children be safe. For example, if you call the Domestic Violence Line, a trained female counsellor can help you:

If you are in immediate danger – if your life or your child’s life is being threatened – call 000 and ask for the police.

Make a safety plan. A safety plan is a guide for staying safe from violence. Safety planning is not about how to cope with living in fear, it’s about taking steps to keep you and your children safe. A safety plan would include:

  • Where you can go and who to call in an emergency.
  • A code word that tells a friend, family or neighbours that you feel unsafe and need help.
  • What your kids can do and who they can call if they don’t feel safe.
  • Keeping important items — such as birth certificates, bank cards, Medicare card, money, medication, Centrelink details, legal papers, keys and some clothes — together in a safe place in case you need to leave urgently.
  • The best way to leave the house (which doors or windows) if you and the children need to leave in a hurry.
  • Asking neighbours to call the police if they hear a ruckus coming from your house.

Find more information on how to create a safety plan for you and your children.

If you decide to leave, a refuge is a safe place where you and your children can go if you need somewhere to stay. This can give you some time to think about what you want to do. You can also stay with friends or people you trust. The Domestic Violence Line can help find a refuge for you and your children and help you think about the options available.

What you can do for your kids

Being exposed to violence has such a huge and negative impact to a child. They may feel depressed and scared, not sleep well, self-harm, become aggressive, and struggle with school. Kids may also try to copy the violent behaviour.

Having you or another trusted family member in child’s life who is warm and caring will make a positive difference for your child. You can:

  • tell them often how much you love them
  • give them lots of hugs and cuddles
  • reassure them that the violence and abuse is not their fault
  • ask them how they are feeling, listen to them, let them talk about it
  • let them know it’s ok to feel upset, sad and angry
  • tell them it’s never ok to be violent to other people
  • play with them, spend quality time, have fun
  • get help and support for your kids and for yourself

What your kids can do

There are things your children can do, depending on how old they are.

  • Talk about the safety plan with your children, if they're old enough.
  • Help choose a room in the house where your children feel the safest but can escape (through the door or window) if necessary. Let them know they should go to this room if there’s a fight.
  • Have a code word to tell your children that they need to leave now.
  • Teach your kids how to contact family, friends, or neighbours who can give them a safe place.
  • Teach your kids how to call 000 for the police, fire or ambulance. Have each child practise what to say if there is violence, for example “My name is … and my mum is being hurt. My address is ….”

Who you can contact

The Domestic Violence Line, or DV Line, is for women and persons who identify as female. When you call, you’ll talk to a trained female counsellor who’ll listen and won’t blame you.

1800Respect is a confidential information, counselling, support and referral service. You can talk to a trained counsellor about sexual assault, domestic or family violence and abuse.

If your kids feel they need support and counselling, the Kids Helpline is open 24/7. It provides counselling and support for children and young people under the age of 25.

Last updated:

09 May 2023