Exposing children to domestic and family violence


  • Judicial Commission of NSW, Equality before the Law: Bench Book (2022).
    Chapter 6 ‘Children and young people’ provides detailed information about children giving evidence and their compellability. This discussion includes information about communication issues such as level and style of language.


  • Magistrates Court of Queensland, Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012 Bench Book (2021).
    Chapter 14.10 discusses the special provisions for the protection of children, including in relation to giving evidence, where a child is a protected witness, and cross-examination.
  • Supreme Court of Queensland, Equal Treatment Bench Book (2nd ed, 2016).
    In the context of examining the reasons for the differential treatment of children in the criminal justice system, at pp.151-153, the bench book looks at the issue of child development and immaturity. It notes: ‘It is well recognised today that childhood and adolescence are key developmental phases, and that early experiences can affect that development. Parenting, including parental absence, plays a fundamental role in how children come to perceive themselves, as well as the world around them and how they interact with it. This includes matters such as the understanding of right and wrong, impulse control, and the taking of responsibility for one’s actions’. The bench book provides a discussion of the science regarding children’s development before stating, ‘where children are neglected or abused (particularly if severely or for prolonged periods), they are likely to progress into in a chronic state of fear and to respond accordingly. Such hyper arousal is to the detriment of other functions and also tends to mean these children struggle to comprehend any later attempts at nurturing and kindness’.


  • Judicial College of Victoria, Family Violence Bench Book (2014).

    1.1 - Causing a child to hear, witness or be exposed to family violence discusses this behaviour, including a short list of examples, and noting evidence is ‘increasingly revealing the devastating impacts that domestic violence can have on children, both as the primary victim of the violence and also witnessing violence, or the effects of violence, between parents’.

    Also see, 5.3 – Children, generally, and especially 5.3.2 – Children’s experiences of family violence and 5.3.5 – Impacts of family violence on children. This section of the Bench Book includes a specific section on 5.3.4 – Indigenous children.


  • Department of Justice (WA), Equal Justice Bench Book (2nd edition September 2021).
    Chapter 5 provides detailed information about children giving evidence and their compellability in various proceedings including Family Law proceedings and restraining order proceedings [5.3]. It includes information about communication issues including level and style of language [5.2.4].


  • Neilson, Linda C, Domestic Violence Electronic Bench Book (National Judicial Institute, 2020).

    The bench book has an entire chapter devoted to children’s exposure to domestic violence: Chapter 6: Children: Impact of Domestic Violence & Evidence of Children’. Most relevant are Sections 6.2.3: The extent of exposure, 6.2.4: What constitutes exposure?, and myths about children in Sections 6.2.5 and 6.2.6. The bench book highlights that children are often overlooked in domestic violence proceedings (Section 6.2), and goes on to discuss the different types of harm experienced by children of different ages and how to respond to evidence from them (Section 6.3). Approaches for ‘[d]esigning agreements and orders to limit child harm’ are also considered (Section 6.4), and implementing appropriate court procedures in relation to children testifying are also considered.

    Also see Supplementary Reference 2: Children and Domestic Violence, which discusses the varying levels of exposure of children witnessing domestic violence, and complexities of domestic violence and child abuse.