Domestic violence has a big impact on the health of families, especially on women and their children. Domestic violence is also a crime – a crime that affects all kinds of women from all kinds of backgrounds.
Domestic violence isn’t just being punched or hit. It can mean other things that are done to control and dominate another person, such as:
- making threats
- forcing you to do sexual things when you don’t want to
- controlling your money
- stopping you from seeing family and friends.
Research tells us that:
- many women experience domestic violence for the first time in pregnancy
- for women already living with domestic violence, the violence gets worse in pregnancy.
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Domestic violence can affect a baby before they’re born. Sometimes it’s because their mother is physically injured. But new research also shows that the stress of living with violence (whether physical violence or another kind of violence) has a significant effect on pregnant women. It can influence how their baby develops. Babies of women affected by domestic violence in pregnancy may have a lower birth weight, and may grow up with social and emotional problems (even if they don’t experience violence after they are born).
This is why all women are likely to be asked about domestic violence by their midwife or child and family health nurse.
You may be asked more than once – it’s part of routine health care in NSW. You don’t have to answer questions about violence if you don’t want to, but it’s important to know that violence is a health issue. If you tell a health worker you are experiencing domestic violence and that you are afraid, they will offer to help you get in touch with services that can help.
If you’re afraid or concerned for your safety or the safety of your children, you can:
- call the police or a local refuge
- tell someone you trust (a friend, your midwife, your doctor or health worker)
- go to a safe place
- use the law to protect you and your children – talk to the police or local court about how to get help make a safety plan in case you and your children have to leave quickly.
There is free counselling, information and medical help for anyone who has been assaulted or abused. These services are based in many hospitals. You can also call the Domestic Violence Helpline on 1800 656 463 or TTY 1800 671 442 (toll free, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week). This service can give you details of the nearest refuge, court assistance schemes and other services.