In Victoria, intimate partner violence is the leading contributor of death, disability and illness in women aged 15 – 44.
While some men experience family violence, it is predominantly women and children who are affected. Often people in a violent or abusive relationship want to talk about the issue but are unsure of who to tell, what to say or how to bring it up.
Starting the conversation can be challenging, but health professionals are uniquely placed to identify and respond to family violence. With the right tools and supports, you can help empower women to break the silence and seek safety.
How to start the conversation
Asking is the first step.
Let your patient know that they can speak openly to you about their concerns and that they are in a safe and confidential environment.
Questions to ask could include:
- Is there anything else going on in your life that you’d like to talk about?
- Are your friends and family aware of what’s going on?
- Are you feeling frightened?
- Are you worried about your children’s safety?
The most important thing is to take all available opportunities to raise the subject and ask the question so that your patients feel comfortable and safe to talk to you, or another staff member.
Education and training
There are a number of organisations which offer education and training on identifying and responding to family violence. Subscribe to the North Western Melbourne PHN fortnightly newsletter to receive updates on upcoming sessions.
RACGP: Visit the RACGP website to access online training modules.
1800RESPECT: has a number of free webinars, with topics ranging from improving cultural understanding in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, to violence against women and their children, and understanding LGBTIQ domestic and family violence.
Resources for health professionals
- HealthPathways Melbourne: Login to HealthPathways Melbourne to access information on Intimate Partner Violence, Family violence, and Patient Discloses Experience of Intimate Partner Violence. Access to HealthPathways Melbourne is limited to health professionals within the north, western and eastern Melbourne PHN catchments only. Request access via this link.
- Northern Integrated Family Violence Services: Overcoming barriers (CALD resource)
- RACGP: RACGP Whitebook
- Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria: Identifying and responding to family violence – a guide for general practitioners
- Women’s Health in the West: Family violence support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women
- Inner North Western Primary Care Partnership: Identifying and responding to family violence
Resources for your patients
- Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria: has a number of printed booklets, pamphlets, posters and wallet cards that can be ordered
- Northern Integrated Family Violence Services: multi-language family violence posters
- Women’s Health in the West
Reducing family violence
Family violence is a key priority for North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network (NWMPHN). Family violence is the leading contributor to ill health for women under 50. At least one in 10 women attending general practice will have experienced family violence.
NWMPHN is working with the University of Melbourne to provide targeted family violence education to general practice through the WEAVE program. The WEAVE program is an outcome of a world first trial, led by GP Professor Kelsey Hegarty, on the effectiveness of intervention by GPs leading to better health outcomes for women and children experiencing family violence.
The following video captures why identifying family violence needs to be embedded into best practice when working with children and families.
The following links will take you directly to family violence services:
White Ribbon Australia:
Women’s Health West:
Women’s Health North:
Women’s Health Grampians:
Women’s Health Loddon Mallee