On the 7th May 2017, an article was published titled “To report, or not to report? NSW doctors in domestic violence predicament”. The Australian Medical Association (AMA) NSW vice-president Kean-Seng Lim, warned doctors about the risks of interfering in domestic violence situations, saying they could be doing more harm than good https://goo.gl/icaLAl
Doctors and in fact all health professionals are at the front line of helping other human beings and YES, they do need to step in when domestic violence is being experienced. We all need to step in and step up and not allow this scourge of violence to ruin lives.
Health professionals can support victims by reporting abuse earlier, the victim could then accept help and referral to services that would aid their safety.
Chapter two in the book Broken to Brilliant Breaking free to be you after domestic violence (https://goo.gl/tv4jOQ ) states that Health professionals need to help break the silence that is suffocating victims.
“Health Professionals need to undertake the 3 R’s:
1. Recognise domestic terror by asking one simple question “Does your partner always make you feel safe?
2. Referral – make a referral to relevant services
3. Reflect and debrief to ensure self-care so you can continue to help others”.
My personal experience left me extremely angry with the Medical profession who failed to clearly document my medical attendance and most importantly what I was concerned about and their responses to my situation.
On two separate occasions, I attended two different Doctors Surgeries (because I took whatever appointment I could get) on both visits I felt as if I had been drugged, I was disorientated and felt very woozy and uncoordinated. I explained that I was concerned my husband was drugging me and they ordered some tests. Unfortunately, on both occasions, the tests did not reveal anything. These drugs leave the body very quickly and in some instances, the tests may not be sensitive enough to detect these drugs. On both occasions, neither doctor documented why I wanted the tests performed and what I had expressed concerns about. The test results were listed, though there was No other information documented.
There was never a time that I wanted to report the domestic violence to the police and I certainly was not making sensible judgements about my own and my children’s safety. I wonder if those Dr’s had had the ability to contact the local domestic violence coordination service if the escalation of abuse would have been averted.
The domestic abuse escalated, where he tried to kill me by pushing a pillow over my face when I got away from that he then put a rope placed around my neck. After getting away from both these attempts I did attend the police station in fear of our lives. He proceeded to stalk us for months. With Police assistance, I was preparing to press criminal charges and gathering all the evidence, I requested my medical records. It was a devastating and gut-wrenching blow to discover NOTHING was written in my medical notes about my concerns of domestic violence and being drugged. I clearly recall the male Doctor saying to me, “with concerns like you are expressing I advise you to get out of the relationship now’’. Yes, I listened to these words of advice and they stayed in the back on my mind as I fought for my life and our freedom. I am very thankful that he said that to me.
Though at the time, I felt that I had been let down, I felt betrayed, that the Doctors had not written about this instance in my medical notes. There was nothing I could do, this would have been critical evidence for the court case. This lack of clear medical documentation was a contributing factor for me not proceeding with the criminal charges. With no criminal charges, I am merely an anonymous domestic violence survivor, with no voice to speak about these incidents freely.
It is true that there are risks for the victim if the perpetrator fears they will be reported by a heath professional. They may prevent their victim/s from attending medical and health appointments. Publicly reporting this new process may provide ammunition and further mechanisms of control for the perpetrator. In my case, if there wasn’t Police issued domestic violence orders, then I would not have had help, I was too scared to report. Maybe with the health professionals support reporting abuse earlier, this could help get the victim the help and services needed for their safety.
The book Broken to Brilliant can be purchased at https://www.books2read.com/brokentobrilliant
You can give a copy of the book Broken to Brilliant to refuges/women’s shelters by purchasing a book a #Giveabook through this link https://goo.gl/hUvcHT