Almost half of female healthcare workers have experienced domestic violence


There are calls for more to be done for healthcare workers after a landmark study reveals many of them had experienced domestic violence.

Physical, psychological and domestic violence has plagued Katie’s* life.

"Financial, social, there was no aspect of my life that wasn’t damaged," she told SBS News.

The social worker spent years pulling herself out of that dark place.

"I know what it’s like to be so controlled by someone that you lose your sense of self, that you're psychologically dismembered and all other aspects of your life are also under attack.”

One in eight of the study participants had experienced domestic violence.
One in eight of the study participants had experienced domestic violence.

A landmark study, conducted by Elizabeth McLindon from the University of Melbourne, has revealed 45 per cent of female healthcare workers - from allied health to nurses and doctors - have experienced domestic violence.

One in nine, by a partner, over the past 12 months.

It’s a huge surprise and it’s concerning, these are people at the forefront of responding to family violence in our community.”

p>One in eight of the study’s participants had experienced domestic violence both as a child, and as an adult.

"Now we have such a strong indicator that many of the health professional women themselves are victims of violence, I think we have a real responsibility to be able to support them in their work in the hospitals and healthcare workplaces where they are and strengthen their work with patients.”


Steps are being taken

Ms McLindon’s research, coupled with recommendations made by Victoria’s Royal Commission into Family Violence, prompted Melbourne’s Royal Women’s Hospital to implement a training and awareness program for staff.

Its 'Strengthening Hospital Responses to Family Violence' program has now been rolled out at 89 public hospitals across Victoria, and there’s been interest from health sectors in Queensland, the ACT and Northern Territory.

Director of strategic engagement, advocacy and innovation at Melbourne’s Royal Women’s Hospital, Michelle Schwensen, told SBS News, the program has already had a positive effect.

"We have had some staff disclose family violence, since we’ve launched the program. And two years ago, we probably wouldn’t have had the right support in place for them.”

Training is being offered in some public hospitals.
Training is being offered in some public hospitals.
SBS News

“We now have the correct support to really support them in their life and make choices about what’s best for them.”

Victorian Health Workers Union secretary, Diana Asmar, said the impacts of domestic violence could affect not only a victim’s personal life but their work prospects too.

She wants provisions, like 20 days of domestic violence leave, available to staff across the country.

“We have a big crisis, where people have to make that decision. Is it my family, or my job? This is happening every single day, as we speak.”

For Katie, workplace support means she feels confident and safe to help other survivors through their journeys.

"It’s a privilege, I want to be, and I believe I’m becoming the social worker that I needed.”

* requested that surname not be used


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