bill_child_abuseTHE definition of child abuse will be expanded to include witnessing domestic violence, under a bill to be introduced to the Senate, strengthening the Family Court's ability to protect children from violent homes.

The bill will also make serious neglect a form of child abuse.

The changes are supported by a damning trend paper from the Australian Institute of Criminology recording the impact on children of hearing or seeing domestic violence.

The paper also links domestic violence with the likelihood of a child being physically or sexually abused - a link of more than 50 per cent for the former and 40 per cent for the latter.


The Minister for Justice, Brendan O'Connor, said: "The report shows that children who are exposed to domestic violence at home can suffer many problems, including acting violently themselves as children or as they grow up.''

Records of children's involvement in witnessing domestic violence are patchy; police rarely record this information, the report notes, because children can make poor witnesses. However, as many as 59 per cent of women who reported domestic violence said it took place in front of a child.

The report noted domestic violence was more likely in households with children, and ''significantly'' more likely in those with children under five.

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