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This article was written by Michael Perusco, CEO of Berry Street, to mark Week Without Violence – an annual campaign to raise awareness about family violence and end violence against women. If you or someone you know needs help in regard to sexual assault, domestic or family violence you can call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732). If you're in immediate danger, call Triple-0 (000).

In Victoria, police attend a family violence incident every six minutes, on average.

Six minutes is roughly the amount of time it takes to make a cup of tea; to walk around 500 metres; to flick through a magazine.

And, in these six minutes, for almost every incident, there are multiple victims of family violence.

Because it is not just the adult partner of the perpetrator who is the victim, but also the child hiding in their bedroom; the teenager trying to protect one of their parents; the toddler crying in the corner.

Too often, children and young people are considered to be witnesses to family violence, as opposed to victims – and victim survivors – in their own right.

Negating or reducing a child’s experience in this way can be highly damaging to their ability to recover from their trauma and can have long-term impacts on their lives.

Berry Street provides services to children, young people and families impacted by abuse, violence and neglect across Victoria. Sadly, we see the impact of family violence in almost every aspect of our work.

As a community, we need to think about family violence in the context of children and young people, and the importance of listening, believing and connecting them with safe spaces to recover from the violence they’ve experienced.

It is not as simple as removing a child from their violent home, but also supporting them to re-build trust and attachment with adults. Early intervention and targeted therapeutic programs are key to this.

The nature of family violence takes so much physical and psychological safety away from young people, which is why it is critical we give them back a sense of agency.

Indeed, too often, decisions are made about and on behalf of children and young people without consultation, making them feel powerless — which can parallel their experiences of family violence. This includes, for example, being forced through custody arrangements to spend time with the abusive parent.

Children and young people need to be at the centre of the conversation about family violence.

Because without recognising children and young people as victims of family violence in their own right, and not just mere onlookers, we risk further harm, jeopardising their recovery, and continuing the cycle of trauma and abuse.

Berry Street offers free specialist family violence services to victim survivors, including LGBTIQA+ people and children, who have experienced any form of family violence.