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Domestic and family violence – a health issue for nurses and midwives

Content warning

This website covers topics that could be confronting for some people. It may cause sadness, or anxiety or distress, or trigger traumatic memories. 

If it is not the right time for you to read this content, and you prefer to talk about your health issue contact us on 1800 001 060.

Content warning: this story discusses family and intimate partner violence.

Domestic and family violence is one of the most serious social and public health issues facing communities across Australia. One woman is murdered every week in Australia by a current or former partner. 

If you or a child or another person is in immediate danger, call 000.

What is domestic and family violence

Domestic and family violence is the repeated use of violence, threatening, coercive or controlling behaviours between people in a family, carer relationship, domestic or intimate relationship, or former intimate relationship. This may include carers. Domestic and family is a problem in Australian society mostly perpetrated by men towards women.

There are different types of abuse – not always physical. Abuse is a pattern of behaviour, to gain power and control.

No matter what your relationship to someone is, sexual, domestic, and family violence are never OK. If you are experiencing violence or abuse call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732, text 0458 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. Free, 24/7 support for people impacted by domestic, family or sexual violence.

Impact of domestic and family violence on nurses and midwives

A significant number of nurses and midwives experience domestic and family violence.

In 2019, pioneering research was commissioned by the ANMF Victorian Branch to find out about the prevalence of family violence in our homes. The research was led by Dr Elizabeth (Liz) McLindon and involved over 11,500 nurses and midwives.

It found alarming rates of partner abuse experienced by our colleagues in the profession.

Read the research report Family Violence against Australian nurses, midwives and carers

Safe haven for nurses and midwives 

In response to the recommendations of the research, the ANMF Victoria launched the Safe Haven information hub. It provides information about support and legal services as well as accessing family violence leave for all Victorian nurses, midwives and carers. This information for all nurses, midwives and students no matter where you are in Australia.

The Hub also provides information for nurses and midwives and carers concerned about their own behaviour and how to access help. 

Why does domestic and family violence happen

Complex issues contribute to the prevalence of domestic and family violence in our society. It is widely accepted that these include social norms and structures that privilege some groups of people over others with more power and resources. 

These factors include: 

  • gender divide between men and women
  • race 
  • class or income status.

Things that contribute to and perpetuate domestic and family violence:

  • Condoning of violence against women and associated behaviours
  • Stereotypes and gendered roles
  • Toxic masculinity

Family and domestic violence leave

As an employee you are entitled to 10 days of paid family and domestic violence leave each year. It is the same for full-time, part-time and casual employees. It’s a paid minimum leave entitlement, like annual leave or paid sick and carer’s leave. Talk to your manager or your HR contact and or a union delegate or go to FairWork: family and domestic violence leave 

Stopping and preventing it – what we can do

Domestic and family violence is not inevitable. It is preventable if we join to raise awareness, and challenge myths and assumptions that perpetuate violence and create a more equal and inclusive society. 

Some of the ways we can do this include:

  • Promoting women’s independence and decision making 
  • Challenging gender stereotypes and roles 
  • Strengthening positive, equal and respectful relationships. 

Impacts of violence

Don’t experience this alone. Talk confidentially to an experienced nurse or midwife who can offer some strategies to help.