The Federal Government recently announced a funding investment of $328m to combat the scourge of family violence involving teachers, bosses, sporting clubs and community leaders among others.

Headlined in the Herald Sun on March 5, 2019 as “$328m to fight family horror”, the article revealed that “there is no mandatory training for health professionals to help them identify victims or how best to offer support.” An investment of $82m will thus include frontline services such as free training for health workers to identify and better support domestic violence victims. Unequivocally, I applaud this funding package, but it fails to highlight the urgent need for mandatory training for health professionals, be they GPs, psychiatrists, psychologists, psychotherapists and/or social workers among others.

But what I find really disturbing is the “horror” of the practices perpetrated by many of these professionals as I’ve personally experienced, as they can be psychologically violent against their patients, so too many bosses and community leaders as I’ve also confronted. Furthermore, this “professional” violence is based, I believe, on a lack of respect towards the patients, usually perceived as disturbed, deranged and deluded more often than not; oft without real evidence but a sequent of assumptions about those who’ve experienced family violence, especially women and young girls. These females also sadly understand themselves as victims, often without sufficient self-esteem, self-respect and self-belief to realise the violence was out of their control. They blame themselves as I hear time and time again and the health professionals only contribute further to their “victimhood” by blaming them too. It’s a vicious circle with scant understanding of the complexity domestic violence encompasses.

The government investment also targets grassroot social networks such as mothers’ groups and churches, without any cognisance that mothers themselves can also be violent, not just against their partner, but their children too. Moreover, the entire article and PM Morrison’s announcement focused only on violence against women with the implicit assumption this was perpetrated by men only. “We need to counter the culture of disrespect towards women”, he is quoted as saying, without actually mentioning men but leaving that as the implied reality. What Morrison doesn’t even consider is the disrespect by the “professionals” maybe because those advising him, those very professionals, are tragically not even aware of their inherent disrespect, manifested unconsciously beyond their recognition. Maybe too it’s just too disturbing for them to confront their own personal frailties and inadequacies. Moreover, identifying and recognising psychological violence is far more complex and difficult than physical violence as a black eye and broken bones are obvious and apparent; even more a dead body, but how many suicides, and mental illness, are a consequence of the more subtle and insidious psychological violence?

It is interesting there is no mention of the actual violent perpetrators by Morrison in the article except by Minister for Women, Kelly O’Dwyer who said: “…one in four women (will experience) violence by boyfriends, girlfriends and dates…” Unfortunately, “girlfriends” was not elaborated on, leaving me pondering exactly why and how O’Dwyer included this. What did she mean? Does she recognise female violence and disrespect by women towards women, not just at home, but at play? What exactly is she referring to? Maybe I countenanced lesbian relationships but clearly it is just violence against women as she prefaces her statement by one in four women, so she is not recognising “girlfriends’” violence against male partners or boyfriends.

It is disappointing that while the article included awareness about no mandatory training for health professionals, this is not targeted in the funding package except for free training to health workers, not mandatory training for high-level doctors. I’m unsure whether some of the problems I have with the article are journalistic, or whether yet again Morrison, O’Dwyer and their advisers believe that men are the only perpetrators of domestic violence. I can’t fathom what O’Dwyer was referring to by including “girlfriends” in terms of family violence. The girlfriends of whom? And what sort of violence?

Having experienced psychological violence manifesting as intellectual and professional put downs from various female family members, sadly including my mother and sisters, I experienced similar abuse from many girlfriends over the years as well as most mental health professionals; gender, nationality, race and creed irrelevant. Several GPs all failed to identify any of my mental health issues (even my being a victim to use the article’s term) as consequent of family violence, directly ensuing from my sister, but then she is a doctor too. The health professionals all believed her and my mother and that to me is one of the real “horrors” of family violence. I’ve written about this in another blog – Deadly Violence of the Psychological Kind. No more to say about this now.

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