How Domestic And Family Violence Drives Youth Crime

In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the impact that domestic and family violence (DFV) has on young people. Research shows exposure to DFV is a positive predictor of young people going down the path of offending, with 53% of youth offenders having been exposed to or being victim-survivors of DFV.

Children exposed to DFV are often impacted by adverse childhood experiences, such as emotional and physical abuse. This trauma can increase the risk of mental illness, substance abuse, and disengagement from education. These factors increase the likelihood of engaging in criminal behaviour as violence becomes normalised, and chaotic environments disrupt normal childhood development.

The effect of DFV on youth offending reinforces the importance of having suitable referral pathways to programs which support early intervention strategies for young people. Project Booyah, an initiative by the Queensland Police Service, exemplifies effective intervention by supporting education pathways, life skills development training, and mental health care to at-risk youth.

Project Booyah aims to remove barriers to education and employment, along with offering safe spaces and consistent support for participants. Recognising the ongoing, long term impacts domestic and family violence can have on young people, the program is tailored to address individual needs which promote positive futures. Recently, a 17-year-old boy’s journey through the program highlights the crucial role that support programs, like Project Booyah, play in breaking the cycle of abuse and criminal behaviour.

From an early age this boy witnessed DFV between his parents. Then around the age of 12, the boy began experiencing relentless bullying, emotional and physical abuse himself. Due to his lifelong exposure to violence, he initially believed this behaviour to be normal. This abuse continued well into his late teens, severely affecting his mental health and sense of safety. Seeking solace, he turned to substance abuse and began committing drug offences. Often running away from home for days and becoming entangled in harmful activities.

Senior Constable Greg Newmann and project Booyah participant (back facing camera)

He states his turning point came through his involvement with Project Booyah, a program designed to help at-risk youth by providing them with the support and skills needed to lead a better life. Through the program, he received not only academic support but also life skills training and assistance with healthcare.

“Project Booyah has helped me through a lot. They supported me through quite a bit, where most people would have just tapped out, but they didn’t, “he said.

“I’m now studying youth work. I want to help kids that are in a similar position to what I was and show them that you can get out of it.”

Project Booyah Sunshine Coast Coordinator, Senior Constable Greg Newman, emphasised the importance of early intervention.

“Most of the kids we engage with in Project Booyah have significant domestic violence backgrounds,” he said.

“Early intervention is key in preventing this trauma snowballing into offending. We need to provide kids in these abusive family environments with safe spaces.”

Creating safe environments for youth exposed to DFV is essential for their healing and development. Support workers and mentors provide stability and guidance, whilst education and vocational training help young people build purpose and direction. By supporting positive opportunities for youth, there is less likelihood they will engage in offending.

Addressing the impact of DFV on youth offending requires prevention, early intervention, and ongoing support strategies. By prioritising these areas, we can help at-risk youth overcome their circumstances, reduce youth crime, and foster safer communities.

The QPS is proud to be working in partnership with PCYC Queensland and Queensland Blue Light to support the delivery of programs including RUBY – a free physical fitness program for women who are, have been, or likely to be experiencing DFV and Elevate – a prevention program designed to educate young people of the social, personal, physical, emotional and coercive nature of Domestic and Family Violence.

Learn more about QPS’ Project Booyah.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic and family violence, you should report it to police.

Support and counselling is available from the following agencies:

More information is also available from the Queensland Government Domestic and Family Violence portal.

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