For the last 2 weeks I’ve had the pleasure of working with some really amazing women at IRISi. It’s been an eye-opening experience for myself as a clinician, but also as a woman. Going into this, I had a preconceived idea of the type of woman that is abused. Maybe a woman with mental health or drug addiction problems, maybe a woman whose religion doesn’t support leaving a perpetrator. As ignorant as it sounds, I did not think domestic violence and abuse was a problem that extended to middle class, university educated women like myself. But the figures beg to differ. The figures and facts tell me this isn’t a class problem, hidden in the backstreets of the UK. There is a nationwide female genocide on all women and the country is not doing enough. If 2 women a week, every week, died from some medical condition, we would call it an epidemic. So why is it any different for domestic abuse and violence? 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence or abuse in their life. This sounds so painfully high to me. To put it into a social context, go on one of your groupchats. 1 in 4 women. A woman you know.
I went to an IRIS training session recently in Cardiff, where local police respond to domestic violence calls every 30 seconds. I couldn’t rack my head around the sheer volume of calls that is. Every 30 seconds, everyday, 7 days a week. Stats show that it can take around 50 incidents before a victim even contacts the police. Which means the calls that are coming in are only the tip of the iceberg. 2,880 calls a day, 19,600 calls a week, is the tip of the iceberg. To ignore that domestic violence and abuse is a gendered issue would be irresponsible of me. A serious conversation needs to be had about male entitlement, patriarchy and misogyny. Nobody is entitled to the body of anyone else. To harm, to control or to invade. So why do I care so much? Firstly, I think everyone should care, it shouldn’t have to affect someone you know for domestic violence and abuse to be wrong. It shouldn’t have to be your sister or you mother or your best friend. Respect for autonomy should extend to all humans, not just humans in your familial and social circle. Fortunately for me, I work in healthcare, this means I see different members of the public every day. I get to chat with them, learn from them, teach them, encourage them, I have to be in their personal space, I sometimes have to tell them off. But for each and every patient that gets in my chair, there is a basic human care that I have for them. I want every person who gets in my dental chair to be safe when they leave my chair. It wasn’t until I did this work that I realised this. I had thought it was a given, but it’s not, the numbers clearly show that. I feel that it is my duty, like all healthcare professionals should, to raise alarm bells when I’m concerned. When women are dying weekly, we can’t sit back idly and hope that someone else will do something because it’s awkward for us. We have a duty of care as humans to support those who may not be in a position to protect themselves anymore.
If you would like to write a blog for us about your experiences of DVA and healthcare, please drop us a line on firstname.lastname@example.org.