Aspect of my life’
in my emotional response to this.
‘‘It’s clear to me we are not doing as good a job as we could do to help these women in terms of encouraging them to seek help.’’
Some of those who took part in the survey spoke of their difficulties in this regard. Some responses by health professionals beggared belief:
‘‘I told my doctor that my husband ‘hated me’ at a postnatal visit,’’ wrote one woman. ‘‘The doctor didn’t ask about abuse, he gave suggestions for me to provide more sex. Kind of the opposite of what I needed.’’
Other women said they had been unable to disclose what was happening to them because their partner who was inflicting the abuse was always in the room during questioning.
The report said participants’ autonomy over their own bodies was ignored, dismissed, and often intentionally undermined by perpetrators, and for many their autonomy was further deflated by professionals blaming them for unwanted pregnancy or STIS, even making reference to moral imperatives regarding women’s lives and reproductive capacity.
Jury says the training around how to ask the right questions needs improvement.
‘‘Maybe we need to be looking at how those sorts of questions are framed up. Maybe we need to be asking them in a better way and more openly so that there is no shame and judgment attached to them.’’
‘‘We encourage people to approach someone they know is going to be safe for help. If they were to approach their local sexual violence service, their local Women’s Refuge, they would be listened to, they would be heard.’’
Jackie Edmond, Family Planning chief executive, says the testimonies in the survey are powerful and disturbing. While the organisation was aware of the issue, she was shocked and sickened by the depth of misery these women faced.
Particularly disturbing was the treatment of women while they were pregnant and after giving birth.
‘‘It shocked me. I really feel quite sick about it. This information just reinforces how much there is going on out there that we don’t know about.’’
The survey showed how important it was to see women who come into Family Planning alone when they have an insistent partner determined to attend the appointment with them.
But there was work to be done by all services available to women suffering at the hands of controlling partners, she says.
‘‘We need to talk about reproductive coercion more, get it out into the open, make people more aware of it so that when women are experiencing it they are encouraged to seek help.
‘‘There is more work to be done, better strategies to adopt. I’ll be getting this report out to clinical staff and health promoters and seeing what more we can do.’’
They will find plenty of anguished cries for help in this report and no shortage of advice from women who have been let down by the very services aimed at helping them.
One woman’s experience was stark: ‘‘[I needed to be asked] specific questions that I could just nod or shake my head to because [by then] I had pretty much lost my voice.’’
* Names have been changed