Domestic Violence and Women from CALD Backgrounds

Domestic violence is the leading preventable contributor to death, disability and illness in women aged 15-44.

Domestic violence is recognised as a crime in Australia, and is experienced across all cultural groups, however many culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) women, in particular recent arrivals, refugee and immigrant women, do not have this important information. CALD communities comprise a signification population in Australia (31% of people in NSW are born overseas).

There are various barriers for women from CALD backgrounds which may prevent them from disclosing violence such as:

  • perception that DV is a private issue
  • stigma and feeling fearful and/or ashamed
  • non-recognition of non-physical domestic violence
  • fear of statutory organisation involvement such as police and Family and Community Services; and
  • language barriers.

Many women from CALD backgrounds do not feel that they can discuss domestic violence with their health practitioner. Instead of disclosing violence, they may speak of symptoms, such as depression or other related medical issues. It is essential for health practitioners to know the signs and symptoms of domestic violence and to know how to ask a woman, in a non-judgmental manner if she is experiencing it.

Strategies that health practitioners can undertake include:

  • displaying posters about domestic violence in the waiting rooms or in your office
  • building rapport and making the woman feel safe and comfortable
  • being culturally-sensitive and respectful
  • listening and being aware of the symptoms of domestic violence and being prepared to respond
  • providing education to patients about the non-physical aspects of domestic violence; and
  • not expecting women to immediately leave a violent partner as this may not be a viable option.

For more information on how to ask about domestic violence and best practice responses

Women experiencing domestic violence and professionals working in the domestic violence space can also gain support by calling 1800 RESPECT (National Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Counselling Service) or 1800 656 463 (NSW Domestic Violence Line).

Article submitted by Sohini Dutta, Social Work Student, Women’s Health Services and Child Protection & Wellbeing (Strategy) Unit, Sydney Local Health District