How you can help, support, and respond to domestic violence victims

Approximately one in four women in Australia have experienced violence by an intimate partner.

“Violence in any form is a violation of human rights,” said Lisa Cook, violence, abuse, and neglect (VAN) educator for Western Sydney Local Health District’s Integrated Violence Prevention & Response Service (IVPRS).

The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence is an annual international campaign committed to raising awareness about the impacts of violence and to call for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls.

The campaign runs from 25 November – the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women – through to 10 December – Human Rights Day – and is a timely reminder for health workers and the community alike.

“People who present to hospital after a domestic violence incident have experienced trauma are typically overwhelmed and distressed,” said Lisa Cook.

“How health workers and the community respond can have a big impact on the person’s experience of safety and trust and what their next steps will be.”

Lisa has offered three suggestions for health workers, as well as the broader western Sydney community, to support people who might be the victims of domestic violence:

  1. Listen and validate: Let the person know that you’re here to listen, believe their experience, and want to help.
  2. Safety: Consider the immediate safety and needs of the person. Do they have somewhere safe to go to? Do they have children in their care? Where is the person using violence currently located? If you’re a health worker, make sure you consider your mandatory reporter requirements.
  3. Support and refer: Whilst they are in your care, continue providing support to the person. You can begin by asking if they are already connected with any support services.

Of course, where possible, find a private place to speak to patients and consider the tips,” Lisa added.

Referrals can also be made to the IVPRS Domestic Violence Counselling Service, who provide specialist, long-term and trauma-informed counselling at no cost to people from across western Sydney who have experienced domestic violence.

“Victims are also able to access the Forensic Medical Unit (FMU) at Blacktown Hospital to document domestic violence injuries to assist with investigations and legal proceedings,” said Fernando Pisani head of department for the FMU.

“The FMU is a specialised service in which the patient’s injuries can be documented and photographed, and then included as part of an Expert Certificate for Police.”

WSLHD health workers can access other resources about working with patients who are or have experienced domestic violence via the IVPRS intranet page. This is only accessible to WSLHD staff.

If you or anyone you know is experiencing domestic violence, when it’s safe to do so, you can contact the following supports:

  • NSW Domestic Violence Line, for crisis counselling, referral, or support on 1800 65 64 63
  • 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 for sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling and support services
  • Link2Home on 1800 152 152 who can help refer women experiencing domestic violence to crisis accommodation
  • Child Protection Helpline – 13 21 11
  • Lifeline – 13 11 14
  • WSLHD IVPRS – 9881 8787

If you are in immediate danger or in an emergency, always contact Triple Zero (000).