As­pect of my life’

Marlborough Express - - FRONT PAGE -

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

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