Children and youth
Children and young people as victims of crime
Like anyone else, children and young people can be victims of crime. Like adults, they have both physical and emotional reactions. They cannot always express these in words in the way that many adults can.
Children and young people often experience feelings of guilt, and find it difficult to tell anyone about the crime. If they have witnessed family violence they may be afraid or feel ashamed to tell anyone. It is important that when they do tell an adult they trust, that they are believed and supported and no longer feel like they are going through the experience alone.
Young children who suffer trauma may:
- have nightmares or problems sleeping
- wet the bed
- behave badly
- eat too much or too little
- cling to adults
- become withdrawn or fear being alone
- suffer headaches
- fight with friends or siblings
- lose concentration
- start doing badly in school
- blame themselves
- be fearful of people, places or things that remind them of what happened.
Older children and teenagers
Older children and teenagers who suffer trauma may
- feel ashamed or blame themselves for becoming a victim of crime
- feel like nobody understands or believes them
- have difficulty concentrating
- decline in school performance
- engage in risk-taking or self-harming behaviour
- feel worthless
- feel angry, anxious or afraid
- be fearful of being left alone
- become withdrawn and sad
- can’t talk about it what happened or can’t stop talking about it
- have sleep and eating disturbances
- conflicts with family members or friends
- overt sexual, aggressive or antisocial behaviour.
Helping children and young people
While the support of family and friends is very important children and young people often need specialised professional help to recover after a crime. The police can arrange this help when the crime is first reported. There are other places you can go for information on services for children.
- the Parent Helpline, Child and Youth Health, http://www.cyh.com
- the Department for Families and Communities (including your local Families SA office), http://www.decd.sa.gov.au
- the Women’s and Children’s Hospital (Child Protection Services phone 8161 7346), http://wch.sa.gov.au/services/az/divisions/paedm/childprot/index.html
- Flinders Medical Centre (Child Protection Services 8204 5485), http://www.flinders.sa.gov.au/womenandchildren/pages/paeds/AAL_PDCz_z/
- the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service http://www.sahealth.sa.gov.au/
- the Kids Helpline, http://www.kidshelp.com.au/
For more further details see 'Who can help' or the White Pages of the phone book
It may help if you can make an appointment with your child’s teacher to ask if the school can provide some extra support. You don’t have to tell anyone at school what happened but you might tell the teacher that things have happened which might affect your child’s behaviour. The school counsellor may also be a good source of support for you and your child.
Interviewing children needs special skills. If a child is a victim of crime, police will try to involve one of these specialists. They will also tell parents or carers what help is available. They may mention such services as Family and Youth Services, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, the Women’s and Children’s Hospital and Flinders Medical Centre.
Schools have access to social workers. They can work with teachers to help children through trauma.
The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions will provide a Child Witness Assistance Officer to inform and support child witnesses, see http://www.dpp.sa.gov.au
Keeping children safe while they are using the internet and mobile technologies can be difficult. The Australian Federal Police in partnership with Microsoft Australia has developed ThinkUKnow, an internet safety program. ThinkUKnow delivers information and interactive training to parents, carers and teachers and young people.