More than 4,000 teenagers across Queensland came to Centacare for domestic and family violence support in the last two years. These young people, between the age of twelve and eighteen, experienced emotional and physical abuse at the hands of their parents or guardians.
Violence toward teenagers is all too real in our neighbourhoods and has detrimental effects on the health and wellbeing of young people.
“I could see Mum was upset because my grades just got so bad. I felt sad and worried all the time, but I didn’t want to worry Mum. She had enough to deal with.”
These are the words of 16-year-old Kayla*, who lived through the trauma of domestic and family violence with her mum and three siblings. Kayla’s mother and father have been separated for many years. She rarely hears from her dad, and never sees him. When her mum moved them in with her new partner, Kayla’s life took a turn for the worst.
“He is a nasty man who took his frustrations out on Mum,” she shared with the Centacare practitioner in a recent counselling session. “I could hear their fights at night, and mum crying. I could see bruises on her body, and I heard him say some very cruel things. He always got into her in the evening when us kids were in bed. I even heard him threaten to kill my Mum.
Mum tried to pretend that she was okay but I could see she wasn’t. I felt sorry for my younger siblings because they were noticing things were bad and they were withdrawn. One of my brothers was angry all the time.”
When Kayla’s mother noticed self-inflicted bruises and cuts on her legs and stomach, she knew she had to do something to help her child. She still thought the children were somehow shielded from the abuse and violence she endured, and wanted answers to what was happening to her daughter. She asked Kayla to accompany her in her counselling sessions with a Centacare practitioner.
When Kayla finally felt ready to share her story with a Centacare staff member, she said “I didn’t know how to deal with the pain, the worry, and the stress of trying to protect my sister and brothers from him. I started self-harming because the physical pain was a way to cope with the emotional pain. Like I could make it all leak out, or something. I felt ashamed of not stepping in to help Mum, and I was worried that he would start getting angry with us and hit us too.”
Can you imagine being in Kayla’s shoes, at the impressionable age of sixteen? Feeling like you have to protect your mother and siblings and worrying about their safety and your own? It’s heartbreaking to think that this is a reality for many teenagers who are silent witnesses to violence in our local communities.
Through the generosity and care of generous people who donate to Centacare, Kayla will be able to find a safe space to heal and process her trauma in a non-judgmental environment.“
Mum made an appointment for me, and it all just came out. I told the Practitioner what had been happening and what I was doing to myself. She listened to me and was kind to me. She helped me understand that what had been happening was not my fault. She helped me to work on some ways to cope at home and the Practitioner referred my mum to another program at Centacare. With their help, she ended up leaving him.”
Your support of Centacare’s Specialist Family and Support Services helps families like Kayla’s. You give them the tools and resources they need to leave an unsafe environment and abusive partner and break the cycle of abuse for the next generation, so young people can navigate safer family relationships for the future.
Please join me in supporting Centacare with your tax-deductible gift today.
Will you care today to give teenagers like Kayla a better tomorrow?
Your gift will help them overcome vulnerable circumstances for a safer future.
Anick de Réland
Specialist Family and Support Services
*To protect their privacy, we do not use the real names and images of Centacare clients. Please know their stories, and the impact you have in their lives, are real.