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Sample text

If they do witness it, anyone can see that such conduct can only be a traumatic experience for them. There is an abundance of research from social scientists about the highly detrimental effect upon young children of exposure to violence and the serious consequences such experiences have for their personality formation. They are terrified and simultaneously come to accept it as an expected part of life; they may learn that violence is acceptable behaviour and an integral part of intimate relationships; or that violence and fear can be used to exert Child abuse PAGES 40 31/8/06 1:58 PM Page 40 CHILD ABUSE AND FAMILY LAW control over family members; they may suffer significant emotional trauma from fear, anxiety, confusion, anger, helplessness and disruption in their lives; they may have higher levels of aggression than children who do not have that exposure; and they may suffer from higher anxiety, more behaviour problems and lower self-esteem than children not exposed to violence.

The Full Court ordered that the husband only have supervised contact each weekend for a day and did not envisage the likelihood of any change in the predictable future. Similarly, in M and M (2000), the trial judge found that the father’s abusive and aggressive behaviour posed a multi-faceted danger to the children, with a risk of injury and fear and a risk that the children would learn from the abusive behaviour and ultimately treat it as acceptable. The court recognised the far-reaching effects of inter-spousal violence upon children and family dynamics.

Again, in T and S (2001), the Full Court held that a trial judge had not sufficiently considered how children are affected by the consequences of violence upon the victimised parent’s caregiving capacity. The trial judge did not accept the evidence of a self-represented mother as to domestic violence by the former partner. The judge found that she was erratic, impulsive and inconsistent, contradictory and prone to exaggerate the allegations of violence. The Full Court did not criticise how the judge had conducted the trial, but allowed an appeal and ordered a re-hearing.

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