Mapping out a Circle of Support with Jason from YWCA Canberra

5 December 2020

This year, YWCA Canberra is participating in 16 Days of Activism by sharing stories, resources and interviews from people and organisations doing their part to help fight against gender-based violence.

Jason is next in our series discussing the impact of violence against women for the families the Circles of Support counselling service helps.

For some children around the world, the home may not always be a safe place of refuge. It can be dangerous, confronting, and sometimes a source of trauma for children who experience violence in the home.

As the Therapeutic Coordinator of YWCA Canberra’s Circle of Support counselling service, Jason specialises in working with clients who have experience domestic violence and other complex traumas in the past. Through his work, Jason has helped families all across the Canberra region engage in meaningful conversation that promotes respect, healing and a mutual understanding. Today we sat down with Jason to discuss his role at Circles of Support, how violence can impact children’s development and wellbeing, and why community counselling services are crucial for children to have access to when experiencing violence in the home.

What is Circles of Support? 

Circles of Support offers individual counselling to parents, children, and young people. We work with families where there is at least one child or young person aged between five and 15 years of age. We are a free service that can work with any member of the family, offering long-term support and focusing on working with trauma. Many of our families have been through family violence and we work with them to unpack the long-term effects of this type of trauma.

Circles of supports specialise in counselling children, young people, and their families. Why do you think it is important for children and parents to have access to these types of services?  

Families often find it difficult to find services that can work with trauma over the long-term. Families who have been through complex trauma can find the small number of sessions offered by other services is not enough to help them and struggle to find another service that can offer them the right support. It is important that there are free, government-funded services available, as many families who have suffered family violence also experience financial hardship and cannot afford to pay for ongoing support.

For 16 days of Activism we largely focus on gender-based violence and how it impacts women and young girls but what are the impacts of violence against children, and how can this affect them long-term?

Through our time working with clients, we see violence having an impact on a child’s relationships, general well-being, and mental health. It can make it difficult for them to trust people, cause low self-esteem, increase anxiety and depression, and make it difficult to connect with other kids. There are also wider impacts when the family escapes violence, as this can lead to financial hardship, particularly if there had been financial abuse in the relationship, which affects the opportunities they have for their life. While you asked about children specifically we also find similar challenges for mothers who have suffered family violence and we often find the best way to help the family is by working with the parent’s trauma first, as they are then more equipped to support their child through their difficulties.

What other support systems are available to these young people in Canberra? 

There are many good crisis services who can support women to escape the situation and get set up with a new chance, creating benefits for the children. These include Domestic Violence Crisis Service and YWCA Canberra’s Domestic Violence Support Service. For specific challenges such as housing, the YWCA Canberra housing unit can help. There are support groups run by DVCS and Relationships Australia that can connect kids to other children who have had a similar experience, which can help them not feel alone.

Is there anything else you would like to add? 

One of the key challenges we see when working with these clients is the systemic issues around family violence. We often see cases where the court and child protection systems give access to perpetrators of family violence, which can continue the cycle of family violence and magnifies the impact of previous abuse. These mothers tell us they feel traumatised by the systems they hoped would be helping them. Most of the focus around family violence is on physical violence, whereas from our experience the emotional abuse can be just as damaging and often leaves a longer-term effect, particularly for young girls and women. Greater recognition of this, particularly by the legal and child protection systems, would go a long way to helping vulnerable families who experience this abuse.

Want to see more of 16 Days of Activism? Be sure to check out our other blog posts here or watch our digital interviews.  

Follow the hashtag #16Days to see what other organisations around the world are to help fight against gender-based violence.  

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