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The impact of family violence

August 6, 2018

The effect of family violence on individuals, families and communities can be long-lasting and profound.  It reaches deep in to the physical and emotional health of those affected, and survivors often need support for many years after the violence has ended. 

At its most extreme, family violence ends in death and women are over represented in the statistics for intimate partner homicide. 

Paula Westhead, Executive Officer of Emerge, said: “We know that family violence is the leading contributor to death, disability and illness in Victorian women aged 15 to 44.”

Family violence has direct and measurable effects on the physical and mental health of victims, including children; it has financial consequences for victims and larger economic consequences for the community; and is a significant factor in homelessness.

“Women who are the victims of family violence are at a greater risk of developing a range of physical and mental problems, including depression, anxiety and phobias,” Paula said. 

Survivors often have to deal with the long-term consequences of injury, including acquired brain injury and permanent disability.

Children who witness family violence experience a higher rate of emotional, behavioural and physical trauma than other children.  Typically, this includes: fear, depression, shame, despair, bed-wetting, headaches, aggressive behaviours, difficulty trusting adults, and a greater risk of developing mental health problems in later life.

The National Council to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children reports that there are economic consequences for family violence, with an estimated $9.9 billion cost to the Australian economy by 2022, if responses to family violence don’t improve.  Emerge estimates that family violence costs the Victorian economy $2 billion annually.  These costs include homelessness, loss of employment and healthcare.

“Ultimately, however, the greatest cost is to the survivors of family violence, who carry the psychological, emotional and physical cost.  For their children the risk is that the cycle of violence will continue,” Paula said.

Emerge works with families to break the cycle of family violence.  Emerge provides outreach support, community education, art therapy for children, legal support and advocacy for women and children experiencing family violence.

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