IN Australia, one woman a week is murdered as a result of a domestic violence attack. Shockingly, 30 per cent of domestic violence incidents occur during pregnancy.
These statistics are the impetus behind new research being undertaken by Griffith University in a bid for the midwifery profession to be trained to support women in abusive relationships.
Led by midwifery lecturer Dr Kathleen Baird from the Griffith Health Institute, the research is surveying midwives across Australia to ascertain their level of domestic violence knowledge and how it can be applied to pregnant women at risk.
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“We have already seen from studies in the UK, that when midwives receive appropriate training in how to deal with domestic violence during pregnancy, they can be very good at identifying problems and supporting women to get help,” says Dr Baird.
“For example, following training, the midwives could understand how to easily pose the question to a woman regarding whether they were suffering abuse. This would become routine for them; they would become good at asking the question, good at receiving a positive disclosure from a woman and skilled at responding with appropriate support services.
“Unfortunately in Australia, it appears that midwives have not received the same level of training on a routine basis and therefore lack the confidence to deal with the issues.
“We believe that midwives are in an ideal position to support pregnant women in abusive relationships and to assist in stemming the problem. We know this from the UK research which showed a seven-fold increase in the reporting rate of cases following midwife training.
“It was also found that when asked about potential abuse by a midwife, 98 per cent of women were accepting of why they were being asked and felt that it was done without any element of fear or embarrassment to them.”
Dr Baird refers to statistics from the Queensland Government showing that the estimated annual cost of domestic and family violence to the Queensland economy is between $2.7 billion and $3.2 billion.
“Of course the effects go much further than just financial; there are also the many emotional costs which can impact a whole family, the community and beyond,” she says.
“My hope is that we can raise awareness of the domestic violence issue before it escalates even further. Australian midwives, meanwhile, are crying out for the appropriate training.”