How can I get involved?
Send in your details here… we will need proof that you are a medical practitioner, e.g. AHPRA number, official work badge with photo etc and that you accept the underlying principles of the group. The private Facebook group is moderated and all members are expected to uphold a code of conduct.
Can Medical Students join?
We are currently exploring ways to engage medical students and their societies. If you would like to be involved, please contact us.
Why exclude violence against men?
We acknowledge that violence against men occurs and that it is important. However, it is also important to acknowledge that there is an undeniable gender bias in domestic violence, with 1 in 6 women suffering physical or sexual violence by a current partner compared to 1 in 16 men. On average, two2 women per week die from homicide by a current or ex-partner. By contrast, men are more likely to suffer violence through an acquaintance or a stranger. This difference is important. It means that different factors are involved and addressing violence against women, compared with vs violence against men, and likely require different interventions. We also reject the tendency to “what-aboutisms” which simply aim to derail conversations, without helping women or men. If you come to our group asking this question, we encourage you to join or create an advocacy group which focuses on men’s issues. Our group is focussed on domestic violence, which disproportionately affects women.
What is wrong with the current medical system? Doesn’t the mental and allied health systems already support domestic violence victims?
Unfortunately no. There are so many ways in which the current medical system fails domestic violence victims. For instance:
- Doctors, especially in emergency and general practice, may see domestic violence victims on a daily basis. Australian statistics show that eight victims per day present to emergency departments due to injuries from domestic abuse. Yet, current education for GPs and ED staff (let alone doctors in general) is voluntary and insufficient. Whilst evidence based trauma informed guidelines are out there and are endorsed by the RACGP, this has not translated into trauma informed practice across the medical sector.
- The current mental health system caters better for depression and anxiety. The government tends to fund short term treatments, while we know that recovery from trauma often requires treatment which is prolonged and intensive. As a result of the inadequacies of the system, the burden falls disproportionately on GPs who are variably and inadequately trained and remunerated for their time. To receive intensive multimodal therapy, victims must pay for private treatment and if they cannot afford it, they either go untreated or are reliant on the generosity of their general practitioner, who may not be able to provide comprehensive and sufficient support. See our submission to the productivity commission on this issue.
- Current medical practice is largely based on a biomedical model. Victims of complex trauma are often labelled with diagnoses such as, borderline personality disorder. Whilst it remains controversial whether personality disorders are a useful construct or not, undoubtedly such labelling leads to dismissal, mistreatment and retraumatisation within the medical community at large. Widespread education and re-organisation of the health system so that it is trauma informed, as recommended by the Blue Knot guidelines, is essential.
What are your main areas of action outside of the health sector?
Advocacy on the family court: We are currently working with legal experts to promote reform of the family court system. Specifically, a group of our doctors is conducting a research project into the judgements of the family court. Another group of doctors is promoting the idea of specialised domestic violence courts at a state level, where lawyers and judges are trauma informed and where victims and children are better protected.
Family court judgements may be subject to biases and myths such as “parental alienation” or manipulation by the female partner to punish the man. These myths and judgements may result in pressure on a protective parent to withdraw claims and compromise child safety which SHOULD BE the priority of the courts. Female complainants may also be subject to escalating costs and delays due to vexatious claims made by perpetrators, again leading to dismissal or withdrawal of claims. We support the need for a Royal Commission into the Family Court system, with the provision of a state based, trauma-informed domestic violence service. We also reiterate the absolute need to emphasise safety for children, regardless of the rights of either parent.
Education of the public: Furthermore, we have collaborated with the press to share our professional experience with the public. Part of the solution is always going to be educating the public to understand the dynamics of abuse and why it is a major health issue. We collaborate with colleagues to help change the culture and the structures which leave domestic abuse invisible or minimised.
Advocating to the government for holistic investment: For instance, with women over 55 being the demographic with the greatest incidence of new homelessness, it makes no sense for the government to invest in domestic violence services whilst defunding homelessness support services. Similarly, what is the point of a domestic violence plan whilst defunding legal aid? What is the point in investing in shelters to help women escape abusive homes acutely, if there is a lack of support for these women in the long term? It is not ok to set up services in city centres, whilst neglecting rural areas and there is a need for special services to cater for the needs of First Nations people, migrant communities and the disabled.