ABC 730 Report
Adam Harvey and Jodie Noyce
16th May 2015
Thousands of Australian families are being terrorised in their own homes by a hidden type of domestic violence - attacks by children on their parents and siblings, and the incidents can escalate into rampages that scar for life.
LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: The nation's focus has been firmly on domestic violence this year and we've heard many terrible accounts of partners attacking partners.
But tonight we go inside two homes affected by a type of domestic violence rarely discussed.
In more cases than you might realise, it's children who are the perpetrators, attacking their parents and siblings.
Their anger can be sparked by something simple - like an argument over phone credit - and it can escalate into rampages that scar for life.
Adam Harvey and Jodie Noyce report.
(Music: 'Nowhere to Go' by Kerser)
KERSER (raps): Same day started as the last one / Nothin' changed, kinda hopin' it's a fast one / Now mates, man, I hardly ever see 'em / I know they feel...
ADAM HARVEY, REPORTER: Shane Broadby comes to his room to calm down. This teenager's home wears the scars of his anger.
SHANE BROADBY: That's when I got angry with Dad and I punched a wall. I punched this twice. I've got the door and slammed it and put a hole there.
ADAM HARVEY: It's not just the walls that cop it.
(to Shane Broadby) What's the worst thing you think you've done or you remember doing?
SHANE BROADBY: Fighting Dad. I didn't want to do it, but he got too close. Like, I don't like people coming close to me. And he got too close and that's when I grabbed him and kneed him in the head.
ADAM HARVEY: Sharlene, how do you feel about your brother?
SHARLENE BROADBY: I don't like him here.
ADAM HARVEY: Why not?
SHARLENE BROADBY: 'Cause I'm scared of him. He gets angry.
ADAM HARVEY: What kind of things does he do when he's angry?
SHARLENE BROADBY: He just hits and punches Mum in the stomach. And pushes her.
ADAM HARVEY: What about you and sisters? Has he done anything to you?
ADAM HARVEY: What's he done?
SHARLENE BROADBY: One time, um...
TINA BROADBY: Tell him.
SHARLENE BROADBY: I don't know how to say it.
TINA BROADBY: Was it time when he got in your room and he nearly you?
SHARLENE BROADBY: Yeah.
TINA BROADBY: Yeah, he pushed her head into the blankets and nearly suffocated her.
ADAM HARVEY: Tina, are you worried what might happen?
TINA BROADBY: Yeah.
ADAM HARVEY: What are some of your fears?
TINA BROADBY: That he will hurt one of the girls and maybe kill one, because that's how bad the temper I think is. Yep. It's very scary.
ADAM HARVEY (to Shane): Your Mum said that she's worried that you might do something really bad: that you might hurt them or you'll kill them. Are you worried about that?
SHANE BROADBY: Yeah.
ADAM HARVEY: Do you think your anger is that bad that you could... kill one of your sisters?
SHANE BROADBY: That's, yeah, probably.
ADAM HARVEY: While there's a spotlight right now on adult domestic violence, assaults by children are rarely spoken about.
JO HOWARD, SOCIAL WORKER, KILDONAN UNITINGCARE: The parents that we speak with at Kildonan often say they feel an incredible sense of shame. They feel embarrassed that this is happening to them in their family. They feel concerned that if they speak about it they will be blamed - which frequently they are - for not taking control of the situation, for not having control over their child.
ADAM HARVEY: Sometimes the first people outside the family to know about the problem are the police.
DEAN MCWHIRTER, ASST. COMMISSIONER, VICTORIA POLICE: Between 4,000 and 5,000 cases per annum that we as members of Victoria Police have to turn up to and address instances of family violence where young adolescent offenders are actually involved.
ADAM HARVEY: Shane has ADHD and grew up in a violent home.
(to Shane) Was there a lot of violence in the house when you were growing up?
SHANE BROADBY: Yeah. Every day. Like, every day. Twenty-four hours a day.
(Brooke Gowans sings and plays guitar)
BROOKE GOWANS (sings): Sittin' in the darkness / Thoughts get the better of me...
BROOKE GOWANS: I couldn't believe her tiny little hands, her tiny little feet. She was a good little girl. She was always full of life, bubbly. She was my world.
It just seems so long ago now.
BROOKE GOWANS (sings): I'm over wonderin' where you are...
ADAM HARVEY: Brooke Gowans' outlet these days is music. It helps distract her from the problems of the last four years with her 15-year-old daughter, Ebony.
BROOKE GOWANS: When she was 11 she started to pull away. By 13 she was out of control. Like, I could understand a slammed door and a few curse words, but it wasn't like that. It was badgering. It was following you around the house. It was trying to walk through you when she was walking past you.
ADAM HARVEY: The abuse turned physical.
BROOKE GOWANS: She's pulled my hair and threw me into walls. She's punched me in the jaw. She... She's done a lot of things that hurt.
ADAM HARVEY: What's the worst thing she's done to you?
BROOKE GOWANS: Um... It wouldn't even be the physical violence. It would be the mental violence. The one where she says things that you can't erase from your mind. Things like, "I hope you die. I'd like to see you die."
(Brooke shows Adam a photo album of Ebony)
BROOKE GOWANS: She always looked pretty.
ADAM HARVEY: Parents of violent teens are almost always reluctant to call authorities. And when they do, there's a new dilemma.
BROOKE GOWANS: I had to call the police on, I think, it's eight occasions because of her violence. And you sit there and they're wanting you to push charges. And as a Mum you sit there and go, "I don't want to do this. I don't want to ruin her future."
DEAN MCWHIRTER: Then we become very limited as to what we can do if they don't want that young person charged. We don't have the capacity to remove them from the home unless it's by consent with the parent and also by consent by the child.
That's really, really challenging in a really emotional sort of situation that our members have to face with. And quite often we're in a situation where our members are left trying to find, you know, essentially crisis accommodation for young adolescent perpetrators.
(Brooke makes tea)
BROOKE GOWANS: Do you have sugar?
TIME FOR YOUTH WORKER: One please.
ADAM HARVEY: Ebony hasn't lived here for two months. A service called Time for Youth is trying to help.
TIME FOR YOUTH WORKER: I've been in touch with the family that she's currently staying with and trying to arrange to meet with her there...
BROOKE GOWANS: OK.
TIME FOR YOUTH WORKER: and have a talk with her about meeting with the two of us and looking at integrating back into the home.
ADAM HARVEY: Despite the scale of the problem, there are few services like this for families with violent children.
BROOKE GOWANS: If it means that every time she comes into the house you're trying to protect her - your other child from her - it's not a good feeling.
(Music: 'Nowhere to Go' by Kerser)
KERSER (raps): That when we drink up / We reminisce and laugh / I'm feelin' bad, I'm out of it though still stuck in the rut...
ADAM HARVEY: Shane Broadby doesn't have a permanent home. Right now he's staying with a mate. His Mum lets him come back home for a few hours because he doesn't have anywhere else to go.
This is a problem if his sisters are here.
SHANE BROADBY: Like, I used to just yell at them, push them, but now, like, sometimes walk away if I can and go back into my room. Yeah, shut my door so they can't bother me.
ADAM HARVEY: What kind of things would they say that would get you upset?
SHANE BROADBY: Just call me a "retard" and all that. I didn't like that and I pushed them hard.
In his bedroom, away from the girls, he can control his temper.
KERSER (raps): They say it's all good / They told me relapse / They found my medicine, I'd only taken three packs...
SHANE BROADBY: I usually put music on and draw and that makes me feel better.
KERSER (raps): Know my dark side / Think she knew it when she caught me in the park light...
SHANE BROADBY: It feels like all my anger goes into my pictures that I draw. All how I feel.
LEIGH SALES: Adam Harvey and Jodie Noyce with that report.