Children's voices: what they say about family violence

Sixty five per cent of women who are in violent relationships and have children in their care report that their child had seen or heard the violence. They are at risk of continuing the cycle into the next generation, which is why we give them support in their own right, to process their feelings. We have a playroom with a specialist children's worker, who through art, play and conversation, gives children their own space to come to terms with the trauma they have witnessed or been part of.

A common theme, as children express their feelings about family violence in the safe environment of the playroom, is their ambivalence towards their fathers. When doing a drawing, some children see their dad as part of their family and want him to be ‘in the picture’, others are adamant he should not be included. One child expressed fear that he ‘will turn out to be bad’ like his father.

Many children are still scared and fearful. One child used his time in the playroom to plan, in a very practical way, for how he would deal with this fear. He was helped to identify ‘safe’ people that he could approach when he was worried. He also decided to prepare an emergency backpack, with a favourite toy and a torch in case he needed to hide in the dark.

Sometimes children are angry towards their mother too, feeling she has failed to protect them, or not understanding if they were, for example, locked in a room that it may have been for their own safety.

Younger children may be very anxious and clingy about their mother’s whereabouts. They may not yet have words for their big emotions, and some haven’t even had the experience of play and are scared to ‘get messy.’ Tactile and sensory activities with things like play dough can help them simply be kids, who don’t need to be ‘on alert’ all the time.'

More information

'Smarty pants, kitty or tiger?' is a collection of artwork of children and mothers staying in our safe house. It is a powerful and moving collection, authored by Sr Nicole Rotaru, RSM.