By Ahmed Ali & Osman Shihaby
Woman’s Health West helps women who are affected by domestic violence and support for children living with family violence.
Meriam is a finance officer in the Women’s Health West organisation, in the city of Maribyrnong.
She gave a brief explanation of what the organisation does and the role of its workers. She said, “they provide services like family violence support, domestic prevention and support and help for children living with family violence.” There are also two workers from African backgrounds who are employed to educate African women about women’s health.
She said family violence “includes physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, financial abuse and social abuse and any one in the family can be affected”.
We asked Meriam how the workers know someone is experiencing family violence. She said, “the primary indicators are: there will be indicators of physical bruise or broken bones, the person seems afraid of her partner or is always very anxious to please, she looks worried or depressed, and is always in a hurry to go home because she might be in trouble with her husband if lunch or dinner is not ready.
The secondary indicators are: “she will be an alcohol and drug user, experience mental health problems or trauma, children will be aggressive, will not do well in school because of the violence, she might not have enough sleep, her self esteem may be low.”
We asked her how the workers form a relationship with her clients. They:
- Listen to what she has to say.
- Believe what she tells them.
- Don’t blame her for the abuse.
- Allow her to express her own feelings.
- Help her to understand that the abuse is not her fault.
- Do not pressure her to leave or try to make decisions on her behalf.
- Do not keep trying to work out the reasons for the abuse.
- Help her to build her confidence in herself.
- Help her to recognise the abuse and understand how it may be affecting her or her children.
We asked Meriam how the workers help their clients to develop own goals, strategies, options and action plans. They:
- Find out where she and her children could go in emergency
- Help her to prepare an excuse so she can leave quickly if she feels threatened.
- Find out how the police can protect her.
- Help her to prepare an escape bag of her belongings and hide it in a safe place.
- They give advice about services she could ring for safety ideas and legal information, because if the client decides to stay she might need other ways to protect herself and her children from the violence.
- Offer to give evidence as a witness if she wants to take out an intervention order or take other legal action.
We asked Meriam how they assess their clients’ need for intervention and priority.
The referrals come from hospitals, schools, police, or other services. The client’s first contact is with the intake worker who assesses the client and provides her with information about her rights, ways of preventing family violence and how to take safely measures. The safety of the client and the children involved is the priority of the organization.
It also provided training, counseling for the workers and training in leadership for the clients, if they are interested.
There are workshops if anyone is interested to know about the training and there is a magazine for members of their database.
Meriam said, “this is part of the services the organization provides for the community. Anyone interested to know more can ring reception and make an appointment with the workers or see our website.