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Frequently asked questions about domestic violence


Q: Why does mum stay?

My mum never stands up to my step-dad and she lets him order her around. I hate him and I don't know why she won't leave him. Why does she put up with it?

It's difficult for anyone to leave a relationship, and particularly hard when you are being abused by your partner. It can be hard to understand how difficult it can be. Your mum might still love him; she might hope he will change; she might not have anywhere to go or any money to leave; or she might not want to take you and her other children away from your step-dad. Maybe your step-dad has threatened to hurt her if she leaves. Or maybe she just feels confused about what to do, or blames herself for the way your step-dad treats her.

It's important to remember that the victim is never to blame for the abuse.

If you can, you could talk to her about how you feel about the way your step-dad behaves. She may not realise how it is affecting you. [Read more on how domestic violence can affect young people]

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Q: What can I do to help my parents?

My mum is being abused by my dad. Sometimes I lie awake listening to them argue and if I think he will hit her, I go and try to get between them. What can I do to help her?

It's important to remember that it's not your responsibility to protect your parent from abuse. Don't get hurt by trying to protect your mother - don't put yourself in any danger. Think about your own safety - fill in the Safety Plan.

If you are worried about your mum or a family member getting hurt, you can ring 000 (this is a free call) and ask for the police. They will ask what is happening and find out your address. Or you could get a neighbour, a friend or someone else to ring them for you. Then the police will come to your house to stop your mum getting hurt. To read about what happened to one person when they rang police, see the True stories 'I hated to see mum get hurt..' or read 'How can police / the law protect me?'

When you can, it might be worth talking to your mum about the abuse and how you feel about it. She might think you don't know about what's happening. She might not want to talk about it because she doesn't want to worry you. But it can help for your mum to know how you feel and to have a chance to talk about it.

There are domestic violence services that your mum can contact. They can support her, talk about her feelings, and give her ideas about what she can do. She can also get legal help - she could apply for a court order that says that your dad has to stop hurting her [see the law]. There are even places where your mum and you and your brothers and sisters can stay (these are called 'refuges') if she needs to be somewhere safe where your dad can't hurt her (or you).

There are also services to help men to stop being abusive too. Your dad could call these services if he wants help to stop his abusive behaviour. See services.

See the Links section if you want ideas on communicating with parents.

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Q: What is a refuge like?

We might have to go and stay in a refuge so my dad can't find us. What is a refuge like?

It is just a normal house. The addresses of most refuges are kept secret, so your dad won't be able to find out where you have gone. There are workers there who can talk to your mum and help her to stay safe, and sometimes there are Children's Workers if you need someone to talk to. You might get your own room or you might have to share a room with your mum and your siblings. There might also be other families who are staying there too, who also need a safe place to stay. For more on this, see the True stories - 'I hated to see mum get hurt..' or the story from an adult ' 'I was too scared to leave home and too scared to stay'.

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Q: Should I still see my dad?

My parents have split up. I still love my dad even though he treated my mum bad - he's still my father and he has never been nasty to me or my sister. But it's hard 'cos my mum makes me feel guilty for seeing him. My dad loves seeing us, but sometimes he criticises my mum and he will never admit to how he treated her, and that upsets me. Should I still see my dad?

Often kids feel confused after their parents have separated and they worry about being 'disloyal' to one or both of their parents. You have a right to have your own feelings about your parents. It's understandable that you are upset and angry about the way he has treated your mum, and for what he put you through.

It's okay to still love your dad, even you don't love the way he treated your mum. Maybe you can talk to your mum about this and she might start to understand that you still want a relationship with your dad.

Also, if you can, perhaps you could tell your dad that it upsets you when he criticises your mother and you don't want him to talk to you like that.

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Q: What can I do to get safe?

When my dad is attacking mum, it's scary for me and it really upsets my little sister. He smashes furniture and once he slashed her with a kitchen knife. He threatens to hurt us as well if we don't stay out of it. What should we do if we are scared?

It's important to keep yourself out of danger. You can call the police on 000 and they should come and stop the violence, and/or you can get to a safe place. See Safety plan for information on how you can stay safe.

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Q. Will I become an abuser too?

I sometimes hear or read things that if you get abused you will grow up to abuse your own kids. Is that true? It makes me worried about being a parent.

Lots of young people who grow up with violence at home worry that they will become an abuser when they are older. You might have heard myths about a 'cycle of violence' - that victims grow up to become abusers.

But there is no proof for this idea - in fact the research shows that most adult abusers did not experience abuse as children (studies show that only around 30 per cent of abusers were abused or witnessed abuse as kids, but most didn't). For more on the research download the Fact Sheet - Young People and Domestic violence (pdf)

Most kids who grow up in homes with domestic violence do not turn into abusers (or victims) themselves. In fact, they may be less likely to be abusive than other people - because they know how much abuse hurts and damages people.

Remember - you are in control of who you want to be and how you behave. Even if you feel angry or confused, you don't have to act in ways that hurt others. See the Links section for links to websites on dealing with anger.

Talk to someone you trust about your worries and what's happening. You can learn about ways of behaving that are not abusive. See services.

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