As highlighted in this issue of InMotion, Thursday 25 November is White Ribbon Day. While there are many ‘days’ throughout the year, as an ambassador for the White Ribbon Australia, this is one that I think is important to promote.
I was struck by this sentiment from a White Ribbon ambassador: ‘Think about three women in your life. Statistically, one of them will report having been affected by physical or sexual violence at some point in her life.’ Another statistic to add: one in four children in Australia will have witnessed domestic violence, and, while not always the case, it is usually a male perpetrating the violence.
As a member of a civilised society, I find this difficult to accept silently.
Given the prevalence of this issue in our community, it is likely that as physiotherapists we are often seeing the physical consequences of this in our practice, but we know that the effects of violence are often not reported to health practitioners as such. I’m sure that each of us in our time of practice has thought to ourselves, ‘that explanation of these injuries doesn’t ring true’, or has suspected that there is more to a presentation than meets the eye.
I am not proposing that we should always confront our suspicions, but instead that we should ensure we are working in a sufficiently supportive way that a patient can talk to us if they wish.
The nature of the relationship between physiotherapists and our patients can at times result in patients feeling sufficiently comfortable with us to disclose that they have been a victim of violence. But are we as professionals equipped to respond appropriately and deal with such a disclosure?
As well as being supportive, blameless and non-judgemental, one of the most important things that all health practitioners can do is to be aware of what support services are locally available. For more information, please see the fact sheet ‘Responding to disclosure’ on the White Ribbon website.
So as November 25 approaches, I encourage all physiotherapists to familiarise themselves with this important societal issue, and to swear the following: I swear never to commit, excuse, or be silent about violence against women.
MARCUS DRIPPS, APAM
APA National President
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