Pain continues for domestic violence victims

L-R: Marlene Hayes, Shirleen Campbell, Sadie Richards, Helen Gillen and Louise Abbott - members of the Tangentyere Women's Family Safety Group.

Women who experience domestic violence have long-term physical and mental health problems, according to researchers from the University of Newcastle.

The researchers tracked three generations of women for 16 years.

Professor Deborah Loxton, from the Research Centre for Generational Health and Ageing and Hunter Medical Research Institute Public Health Program, said domestic violence can lead to poor mental health, including long-term depression and anxiety.

“Domestic abuse is also associated with a higher prevalence of chronic pain and headaches, cervical cancer, chronic disease, and problems with physical function that affect quality of life,” Professor Loxton said.

“Many people don’t realise that stressful life events impact physical health as well as mental health. It’s vital for clinicians and healthcare workers to understand that these women’s health issues are real, and that they are long lasting.”

Indigenous females are 35 times more likely to experience domestic and family violence than non-Indigenous Australian women, according to figures quoted in The National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010 – 2022.

The new research paper by Professor Loxton’s team is the first to investigate the health impacts of domestic violence over a long period. The researchers followed 16,761 participants in the Women’s Health Australia study.

The three groups of women, born from 1921-1926, 1946-1951 and 1973-1978, were asked whether they had ever been in a violent relationship and answered regular surveys assessing their physical and mental health.

The researchers found that as the groups aged the women’s physical function and general health decreased and their bodily pain increased, however the physical health of women who experienced domestic violence was consistently worse.

Overall, women’s mental health steadily improved with age, but women who experienced abuse had consistently worse mental health than those who had not.

“One of the interesting findings was that poor mental health was a risk factor in women entering into abusive relationships, as well as being a consequence of abuse,” Professor Loxton said. “This indicates that appropriate mental health care can play a role in the prevention of domestic violence.

Professor Loxton said interventions and support available to women are frequently for the immediate crisis period.

“Unfortunately, the reality for one in four Australian women is that the physical and mental health impacts of domestic violence could last a lifetime,” she said. “We need policies and interventions in place to provide support for the women who are still feeling the impact 10 or 20 years later.”

 Aboriginal women from town camps in Alice Springs will take to the streets on July 11 to march against domestic violence in a move they hope will be a catalyst for change around Australia.

1 Comment on Pain continues for domestic violence victims

  1. “During the first half of the 20th century the Aborigine were written out of Australian history.This had the convenient effect of hiding much of the domestic bloodshed, allowing the celebration of what came to be viewed as a uniquely peaceful history of settlement… For generation weaned on this soothing syrup the new history of the frontier came as an unwelcome revelation and one often stoutly resisted.” – Henry Reynolds

    Aboriginal males have been ‘wounded’ by the numerous impacts since colonisation which devalued their culture and stole from them, their role as hunters. Aboriginal males lost their well-defined, meaningful roles with authority and status, and young males lost their positive, aspirational role models. Today, we are the ‘forgotten warriors’.

    Initially, Aboriginal male authority and knowledge were disenfranchised. This marginalisation is perpetuated in the current situation, where many Aboriginal men have been deprived of their provider role. This diminishes the status, self-esteem and sense of purpose of Aboriginal males.

    Because of ill-chosen, discriminatory and poorly researched Government initiatives, Aboriginal people have endured decades of oppression and neglect. The massacres and inhumane treatment of their families remain fresh in their minds.

    In two hundred and fifty years, colonisation has wiped out a natural ‘birthright’ for Aboriginal men in, hunting whereby, he provided meat and maintaining spiritual well being for ‘country’ has instructed from his Elders and ensured the safety of his family. This was his role. For up to 11 months of the year men remained with men conducting ‘men’s business’. Today, the Aboriginal man’s role is defined by his oppressor, and no longer by him. The oppressor also encourages his way of life and ‘world views’ to be the same has his oppressor. To live for 12 months of the year in a nuclear family, a fixed address (if they are lucky!), a whole foreign ‘world view’ including what his oppressor wants of him regarding a man’s role has a provider and to celebrate this achievement he can have a beer or two or three etc. Fortunately, for Aboriginal women and their oppressor, have a mutual commonality. They are ‘mother’s’ and a mother is sacred. Specifically, to other mother’s.

    Defining feminism is a difficult task for aboriginal men. Yet one thing leading experts in the field all agree with is that “feminism is not merely about adding women onto the agenda” (Currie & Maclean, 1993, p. 6). Feminism is referred to here as a “set of theories about women’s oppression and a set of strategies for change” (Daly & Chesney-Lind, 1998, p. 502). It is though erroneous to view feminism as a monolithic enterprise, which is frequently done in attacks done on feminist research and theories.

    Both sexes in aboriginal society were deeply involved in a spiritual life and were ‘part of the Dreaming’. Although much has been written about the ceremonies reserved only for men, women were major participants in many rituals and even had their own secret ceremonies. Women played a major role in all the family focused formalities, like marriage and death.

    Aboriginal women were more independent than any other European female during the era of the first settlement. They had a position in the indigenous society that was invaluable, with responsibilities as vital as food production and as powerful as control over betrothal, while their Victorian era counterparts were only trained in table manners and in how to look beautiful while standing next to a man, as his property.

    Despite fashionable debates about whether we’re living in post-feminist times, the uncomfortable truth is that white Australians not-so-distant history still feeds into their beliefs. A late-19th century married woman was literally a man’s property, and it was his duty to protect her. The common law doctrine of coverture vanquished a woman’s legal rights on her wedding day, and assigned them to her husband.

    From that day on, she and her husband were the same person – and that person was the husband. Coverture was abolished in 1882, but its legacy endured; until the 1990s, a marriage certificate conveyed permanent sexual consent, and Australian men were permitted by law to rape their wives.

    Aboriginal men who tried to oppose this ‘world view’ were hunted down and shot on site, while their women and children were either given the same treatment or enslaved. Unfortunately, for Aboriginal men this ‘white world view’ is superimposed over ‘black world views’ and is a very decisive debate to this day and beyond at what constitutes for Aboriginal Communities a situation of “power and control” and what do we need to do, to prevent being like our oppressor.

    There are Aboriginal men in our communities that are attempting to do something about the use of violence on women and the sexual exploitation of our children, even though the subject matter is predominantly a “woman’s domain”. So, as men we need to tread carefully, or we could be labeled or been seen to be meddling in matters that only women own.

    Quoting, Marcia Langton AM, professor of Indigenous studies at the University of Melbourne

    ‘I want to say to all the sisters out there who are victims of violence: do you truly believe and have irrefutable evidence, that our Aboriginal men in our societies would have been so violent against our Aboriginal women prior to colonisation? The ensuing massacres were a sick situation. This violent treatment, that continues post-colonisation was and is an unacceptable situation. This was severely perverted.’
    Thank you.

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