Children bereaved by domestic violence need our support

“I was angry at everything. Angry that my mother was dead, I was sad as well. I was angry that my dad was in prison, I wanted to see him but that wasn’t allowed. That made me angry.”

This is a quote by a young Dutch girl whose father killed her mother. More than a third of female homicides worldwide are perpetrated by an intimate partner. Many of these women are parents. Since I’m back in Australia, I’ve tried to look into the local figures: in total, probably over 1,000 Australian children have been bereaved by fatal domestic violence in the past 20 years.

It is an understatement to say that losing a parent at the hands of the other parent has a major and lasting impact. It turns children’s worlds entirely upside down: at once they lose both parents – one to murder and one to prison or suicide – as well as their home and school environment.

Professionals have to make fundamental decisions for children after a domestic homicide. Where should the children live? Can it be with the family of the victim, or with the family of the perpetrator, or should it be a ‘neutral’ family? Should they have contact with the perpetrating parent? What kind of mental health support do the children and their caregivers need? Continue reading

Back in the world’s most liveable city

I’m back in Melbourne! After two wonderful years in Switzerland and Europe, I have returned to Melbourne for part 2 of my NHMRC fellowship. It has been surprisingly easy to settle back in: it’s lovely to catch up with everyone here and the world’s most liveable city is still a buzzing creature.*

The fellowship is all about how parents and professionals support children after trauma, and in the past two years we’ve made quite a bit of progress. So, while I have been thinking about the blog but not writing on it, here is a quick overview of where we are at and what is next.

Where we are at

1. In the Ear for Recovery project we look at how parents support their children after a serious injury: we audio-sample families’ daily life for two days after discharge from the hospital (with the ingenious EAR device). With enormous thanks to the whole team, we now have fully transcribed and coded data for 71 families: close to 20,000 audio snippets. Continue reading