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New Toolkit helps GPs to identify Family Violence

12 November 2015

NEW Toolkit helps GPs to identify Family Violence

Hobart Domestic Violence Service, SHE (Support, Help and Empowerment), has released a Family and Domestic Violence toolkit for GPs and other medical practitioners for distribution across Tasmania.

It is estimated that GPs may see up to 5 women per week who have experienced sexual violations, physical assault or emotional abuse by their partner, yet family violence remains hidden making it a challenge for clinicians to address.

Dr Alison Edwards a GP at Family Planning Tasmania describes, “With GPs being the person that often hears the initial disclosure of family violence from a woman, their response can be so very important to the family’s wellbeing. The SHE toolkit provides GPs with up to date information and resources on how to assist the woman and ultimately maximise her safety.”

“For some women controlling or manipulative relationships have become a way of life and they don’t think to mention it to their GP even though medical services may be one of the few places where they should feel safe to say something”, explained Alina Thomas, Executive Officer of SHE.

The response of a medical practitioner can be the difference between getting the support a person needs to stay safe or to leave an unhealthy relationship. It is estimated that 1 in 5 women make their first disclose to their GP.

“GPs play a crucial role in identifying and responding to family violence in the community as we have ongoing relationships with people and families throughout their lives and there is a chance to build trust and encourage disclosure,” explained Hobart GP Dr Lisa Searle

The toolkit gives practical information and guidelines about identifying and responding to women and children who are experiencing family violence.

“Safety, discretion, and informed responses can be the difference between life and death,” stated Ms Thomas, “a GP’s response can also determine whether women get the services they need to look after themselves and protect their children”.

“A lot of women who are experiencing abuse or violence become very isolated. Their GP or other health professional can be the one place where they feel safe reaching out for help and support. This toolkit by SHE will help health professionals to be up to date and appropriately equipped to respond to disclosures of violence,” said Dr Searle.

The toolkit covers the key physical and psychological indicators of violence, how to conduct risk assessments, details of organisations providing support to victims of family violence, and a description of the police and judicial responses in Tasmania.

SHE thanks RACT for the grant to cover the printing costs associated with the toolkit. Copies are being distributed to surgeries and health clinics across the state and are available from admin@she.org.au


“22.5% of women make their first disclosure of domestic violence to their GP.” Routine Screening Impact Evaluation Study. 2008

Hegarty and O’Doherty, 2011, Intimate Partner Violence Identification and response in general practice, Australian Family Physician, Vol 40, No11 Nov

Roberts G et al ‘Intimate Partner Abuse and Health Professionals: New Approaches to Domestic Violence’ London: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier, 2006, 19-40 in Abuse and Violence: Working with Our Patients in General Practice (3rd ed), The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, Victoria, 11.