International Women’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate the gains made by women and girls over the past decades. It is also a time to reflect on the fact that one in six women experience violence at the hands of their partners or family members.
Family violence can include physical, psychological, sexual or financial abuse. It can happen to anyone and getting help can be a difficult and frightening experience.
Phoenix Australia works with organisations that support women and their families to improve access to timely and effective support. Anne-Laure Couineau, Director of Policy and Service Development at Phoenix Australia commented on some of the research work, “We work with diverse communities to address the needs of vulnerable groups of women who have experienced trauma. At present we have projects that focus on migrant and refugee women.”
Women from migrant and refugee backgrounds are more likely to experience complex forms of violence. Family violence can include issues such as forced marriage and partners using the visa status of women to control and isolate them. Separation from family and isolation that often comes with migration and displacement can also mean that migrant and refugee women are more vulnerable and have less access to support.
Studies show women from migrant and refugee backgrounds face significant barriers to accessing services, especially when they need emotional and mental health support. It is more difficult to report violence and ask for help without the support of family and friends, or when one is unfamiliar with services in a new country and is not proficient in English.
Phoenix Australia has partnered with the Australian Muslim Women’s Centre for Human Rights to understand the barriers that migrant and refugee women face when trying to address the trauma associated with family violence. Researchers explored their needs through consultation with these women, and with specialist family violence, migrant and refugee services.
“The information emerging from our consultations confirmed how difficult it can be for migrant women to access counselling and emotional support when they have experienced family violence” explained Ms Couineau. “Barriers included cultural issues such as feeling misunderstood by service providers or not having access to appropriate translation services. It was also apparent that there were widely different practices around identification of violence, cultural engagement and understanding of the psychological impact of violence across services.”
“The outcome of these consultations will be a culturally appropriate framework for providing trauma-informed care to women who have experienced violence,” said Ms Couineau. “Services in the Geelong region will be first to put the new guidelines into action once they are developed.”