12 January 2015
Parents are being abused by their violent children at record levels, and support services fear the rash of Victorian youths offending in the home will fuel another generation of domestic abuse.
Crime statistics reveal that more than 6000 family violence reports were made by parents against their children aged from under 10 to 24 last year. Parents reported being abused by 32 boys and six girls under 10.
Detective Superintendent Rod Jouning, head of the Victoria Police sexual and family violence division, said a disturbing number of youths had seen their fathers abuse their mothers or siblings and had repeated the behaviour.
Attacks by children have increased by almost 50 per cent in three years, but Detective Superintendent Jouning said there was a real reluctance from their parents to call police.
"We need to get over that reluctance because the last thing we want is for that behaviour to get more violent.
"We want to change their behaviour, not lock them away."
Teenagers aged between 15 and 19 are the most likely to offend, but of the almost 9500 people reported for violence against their parents last year, 65 were at least 55-years-old.
More than a quarter of all offenders aged 19 or younger were girls.
One mother from Melbourne's south-east told Fairfax Media that she never contacted police, despite her daughter terrorising the family for three years.
In the most serious incident, the 15-year-old had to be pulled from the throat of her 17-year-old sister, who she was strangling on the ground. After her mother intervened, she threw a stool at her sister's head, narrowly missing her.
Her daughter "had taken control of the whole house" and repeatedly threatened the family with knives.
"Basically if she didn't get what she wanted she'd just explode," the mother said.
Jo Howard, an expert on violence against parents, said the frightening prevalence of children committing domestic abuse was linked to more permissive parenting.
She said failing to intervene could see violent children become violent partners when they leave home.
"I wouldn't want to blame parents though; they're at a real loss at what to do."
Ms Howard, executive manager of child, youth and family services at Kildonan, said many offenders had either been raised in homes that were quite wealthy, or particularly poor.
Privileged children who were used to getting their way could develop a sense of entitlement and lash out when parents stopped meeting their demands.
Ms Howard had worked with a 15-year-old boy from the eastern suburbs, who attended a private school and had previously been considered a "perfect" child, but then started to abuse his parents and a younger sister.
His behaviour escalated to damaging a wall after throwing a chair at his father and breaking a vase when he pushed his mother.
Ms Howard said children from low-income families, often with a single parent, could become violent out of frustration that their lives are more difficult than their peers.
One 15-year-old beat his mother so badly that she had to take time off work, and feared she could lose her job. She had left the boy's father four years earlier because he had been also been violent.
Victoria is the only state that has behavioural change programs for children who are family violence offenders, with services based in Frankston, Geelong and Ballarat.
Young adults who abuse their parents can attend other programs, such as those offered by No to Violence. Acting chief executive Rodney Vlais said some men left their home because they had abused their partner, moved back with their parents, and then assaulted them too.
For 24/7 help anywhere in Australia on a family violence issue, call the 1800Respect counselling, information and support helpline on 1800 737 732, or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800. In an emergency, call triple-0.