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New resource to help doctors support victims of family violence

03 June, 2015

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) has launched an important resource – Supporting Patients Experiencing Family Violence: A Resource for Medical Practitioners – to assist doctors to provide better support for victims of family violence.

The resource, produced in collaboration with the Law Council of Australia, provides information about specialist support services including health, mental health, drug and alcohol, legal, family support, and child protection services.

Launching the report in Brisbane with President of the Law Council of Australia, Duncan McConnel, AMA President, A/Prof Brian Owler, said that the medical profession has a key role to play in the early detection, intervention, and treatment of patients who have experienced family violence.

"Too many women in Australia experience some form of physical or sexual violence in their lifetimes," A/Prof Owler said.

"This is unacceptable for a sophisticated nation like Australia.

"The health effects of family violence in both the immediate victims and their families are devastating.

"Family violence affects people of all genders, sexualities, ages, socio-economic backgrounds, and cultures.

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

"The most prevalent effect is on mental health, including post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, suicidal, ideation, and substance abuse.

"There are also serious physical health effects including injury, somatic disorders, chronic disorders and chronic pain, gastro-intestinal disorders, gynaecological problems, and increased risk of sexually transmitted infections.

"Australia must do everything that can be done to address the issue of violence against Australian women.

"Health care providers may see more results of violence in their patient contacts than law enforcement agencies.

"Women experiencing domestic violence will tell GPs more often than any other professional group.

"Responding effectively to family violence requires knowledge of the physical and emotional consequences of the violence, an understanding of appropriate and inappropriate responses, and having good networks with local family violence services.

"The AMA's resource for medical practitioners provides information from a range of sources as well as information about specialist support services.

"Through this resource, Australia's doctors can help say no to family violence."

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