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Family doctors need help to tackle domestic violence

Family doctors need help to tackle domestic violence - Featured Image

Family doctors are more likely than police to see the results of family and domestic violence, and have a key role to play in early intervention and treatment, the AMA says in an updated Position Statement.

AMA President, Dr Michael Gannon, said the trusted role of the family doctor gave GPs a clear insight into the damage caused by the violence.

“Two women are killed nearly every week in Australia due to family and domestic violence,” Dr Gannon said.

“The health effects of family and domestic violence in both the immediate victims and their families are devastating, and it is not only women who are the victims.

“Women experiencing domestic violence will share their experiences with their GPs more often than with any other professional group, and the health impacts persist long after the violence ceases.”

Women who have experienced domestic or family violence have higher levels of mental and physical disorders, higher rates of suicide attempts, and are more likely to have an impaired quality of life than other women.

“Children who grow up witnessing and experiencing domestic violence can also be profoundly affected.”

Related: Violence screening “complex”

The AMA is committed to providing important information and guidance to empower doctors, particularly GPs, to provide better support for victims.

The release of the revised and updated Position Statement on Family and Domestic Violence 2016 this week coincided with a major meeting of Commonwealth, State, and Territory ministers at the COAG National Summit on Reducing Violence Against Women and their Children.

It calls on all Australian governments to properly fund and resource specialised family and domestic violence support services, including housing and crisis accommodation.

“Family violence affects people of all genders, sexualities, ages, socio-economic background, and cultures,” Dr Gannon said.

“And we are now also seeing increasing instances of elder abuse, with grandmothers and grandfathers, many frail and vulnerable, being subjected to violence from family members.

“Men can be victims. Women can be perpetrators. But it is clear that the overwhelming majority of people who experience such violence are women.”

Stamping out family and domestic violence requires commitment and coordination from governments; support services; the related professions, especially medical, health and legal; neighbourhoods; and families – backed by adequate funding.

The Women’s Electoral Lobby (WEL) backed the AMA’s call for funding, saying it was disappointing that crisis services for women and children escaping violence were not on the agenda for the COAG Summit in Brisbane.

“The Summit plans to hold roundtable discussions on such topics as ‘using behavioural insights to reduce domestic violence’ and ‘innovative uses of technology’, as well as important discussions on the Family Court, Indigenous insights and experiences, and the effects of domestic violence on children, but there is nothing on the agenda about crisis services, including women’s refuges,” WEL said in a statement.

“WEL calls on the COAG Summit to include support for long-term, secure Commonwealth-State funding for women’s crisis services in its deliberation and follow-up actions.”

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