Violence against women and children is often hidden, “invisible” in many societies and through much of history. Victims have been blamed for causing the violence and still report feeling ashamed and that it is their fault.
I interviewed a young mother who was having recurrent nightmares about her three year old daughter being abducted and raped. The worst part of her dream was that she stood beside her daughter’s bed doing nothing. She woke up feeling that she was not fit to be a mother and couldn’t protect her child.
Her own history was one of recurrent sexual assault by her stepfather which started when she was about 4 years old. He was violent and brutal and even though she was a small child but she still blamed herself.
I asked her if her daughter could defend herself against a 30 year old man, she responded “Don’t be silly …she’s a little girl” She stopped talking and looked at me; her eyes filled with tears “It wasn’t my fault? You really believe that [as a doctor]?”
Krug, E., L. Dahlberg, et al., Eds. (2002). World Report on Violence and Health. Geneva, WHO.
Itzin, C., A. Taket, et al. (2010). Domestic and Sexual Violence and Abuse: Tackling the health and mental health effects. London, Routledge.
Roberts, G., K. Hegarty, et al. (2006). Intimate Partner Abuse and Health Professionals: New Approaches to Domestic Violence. London, Churchill Livingstone-Elsevier.
Australian Women’s Coalition, Australian Federation of Medical Women, et al. (2010). Happy Healthy Women: Not Just survivors. Advocating for a long-term model of care for sexual assault survivors. Sydney, AWC