Family Violence- How to ignore it?

Ana Nunes Barata, WONCA executive's representative for Young Doctors is also interested in Family Violence. Here she writes for the WONCA SIG on Family Violence.

How to ignore this subject, “Family Violence”? I’ve just finished reading a newspaper article where, once again, a woman has lost her life in the context of domestic violence.

As a doctor, a person, a woman… reading or listening to reports on this subject is something I can’t possible ignore. The woman who comes to your practice because of a cough and, when asking her if everything is alright, she starts crying and asks for help to run away from home; the woman who just got pregnant, does not want the boyfriend to enter the doctor’s room because she’s still having a hard time accepting it and he consequently creates a riot in the waiting room; the woman who thinks it’s normal to be physically available for him whenever he wants, because that’s how she thinks all men are… I could go on and on. Be it due to inexperience, infatuation, embarrassment, fear, socio-economic reasons - there are many reasons why victims choose to carry on living with an aggressor despite knowing that it’s wrong.

During consultations, it should be our role as family doctors to give space for our patients to talk openly about their relationships. No, this is not gossiping. This is actually the best way to identify red flags in a relationship, offer advice and thus prevent worse events from developing. The earlier, the better.

And we should not only focus our attention on women, but also on men, children and elderly people, who can be affected by this problem.

As Family Doctors we provide holistic care, so our thinking needs to include all elements from the “old” and the “new” family. We should strive to help families to be healthy and to grow in harmony. But sometimes we may feel that we do not have the experience or knowledge to assess these types of problems, as we did not receive undergraduate or postgraduate training on this subject. “How to start? What to ask?” are questions that you hear frequently… and where should one look up information on this topic?

I’ve been collaborating with Vasco da Gama Movement’s Family Medicine Violence group since 2013, and it has been an incredibly rich experience. I had the opportunity to meet other colleagues who are developing inspiring work on this topic, to collaborate with them in their initiatives and, most importantly, to learn with and from each other. From this group’s workshops, sessions and texts, I have collected very useful resources when it comes to assessing Family Violence.

Resources such as:
- Cycle of abuse
- Family violence quality assessment tool for primary care offices

We must keep on with this work, in order to provide information, tackle fears and myths, and encourage victims to reflect on what is going wrong and to seek help.

Therefore, I commend this group’s valuable work and hope that it will continue its important role at a global level. We can’t stop being alert to this problem and to facilitate training on this subject. Healthcare professionals have an important role in this fight - together, we will build a better society for all.

Join the SIG Family Violence