REPRESENTATIVES from the domestic violence sector will meet on Friday for the first Hunter workshop with a primary focus of alleviating the long term impact of abuse on women’s health.
Co-director of the University of Newcastle’s Priority Research Centre for Generational Health and Ageing, Professor Deb Loxton, said the workshop at HMRI was born after she was “inundated with phone calls” following her and her colleagues’ publication of a paper last year showing the physical and mental health of women who experienced domestic violence was “consistently worse” after the 16 year term of their study than those who had not experienced abuse.
Professor Loxton said while it was generally understood that abuse could lead to depression and anxiety, the study also showed women who had experienced violence were more likely to suffer body pain, poor general health, chronic disease, problems with their digestive and reproductive systems and cervical cancer.
“This indicates to me there is still work to be done,” she said.
“Even 16 or 20 years later women still have this health deficit and we don’t really have it on the agenda.
“If you think about it too much it can be overwhelming, which is we want to take this life-course perspective and say ‘Okay, we know this is true, what can we do about it?’
“There’s lots of people working on prevention, doing great work in early intervention, what can we do about quality of life for the rest of these womens’ lives once they’re out? Let’s lay out the issues and work the problem – if we leave it there, it will just keep existing.”
Professor Loxton said researchers, frontline workers and policy makers often operated in “siloes”, but the workshop aimed to bring them together for what she hoped would be the first of regular and larger meetings.
“Although we’re seeing this lifetime deficit I’m sure that’s not true across the board – we want to know who is doing better and why,” she said.
“People on the frontline are going to be in a good position to explain some of that to us and hopefully together we can then work on methods for increasing the resilience of women who have experienced violence in order for them to live their best life and not a life hampered by the long term impact of abuse.”
Professor Loxton said it was clear that “social support” helped, although this could include financial support, practical support, someone to talk to and help to look after children.
“I want to know more, but we haven’t had the funding to unpack that more.
“I think we need to understand what is the most important aspect that might then be able to be systematised in some way or built into a service or policy to facilitate that for more people.
“I’m hoping we build a strong network… to help us in the longer term leverage some funding to address these issues in a useful way.”
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