Family Violence: An Insight Into Perspectives and Practices of Australian Health Practitioners

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Family violence is threatening behavior carried out by a person to coerce or control another member of the family or causes the family member to be fearful. Health practitioners are well placed to play a pivotal role in identifying and responding to family violence; however, their perceived capacity to respond to patients experiencing family violence is not well understood. We aim to explore Australian health practitioners’ current perspectives, practices, and perceived barriers in working with family violence, including perceived confidence in responding effectively to cases of family violence encountered during their work with patients. A total of 1,707 health practitioners primarily practicing in the wider Melbourne region were identified, and 114 health practitioners participated in the study between March 2016 and August 2016 by completing an investigator-developed questionnaire. Descriptive, qualitative, and thematic analyses were performed. The majority of participants recognized family violence to be a health issue and that family violence would impact the mental health of afflicted persons. Despite this, only a fifth of participants felt they were very confident in screening, supporting, and referring patients with family violence experiences. Perceived barriers to inquire about family violence included time constraints and greater importance placed on screening for other health issues. Health practitioners reported that additional training on screening, supporting, and referring patients would be beneficial. Australian health practitioners need to be upskilled. Recently, in Australia, state-relevant toolkits have been developed to provide succinct information about responding to initial patient presentations of family violence, how to inquire about family violence, and how to handle disclosures (and nondisclosures) by patients. Further resources could be developed to aid health practitioners in providing assistance to their patients as indicated. These initiatives would be a step toward addressing the concerns with regard to the lack of training and could possibly optimize outcomes for patients experiencing family violence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)NP2391–NP2409
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Interpersonal Violence
Issue number5-6
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021


  • domestic violence
  • intervention/treatment
  • mental health and violence
  • perceptions of domestic violence

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