Reclaiming her voice: GP and family violence survivor speaks out

Doug Hendrie

13/03/2019 1:13:34 PM

Somewhere in Australia right now, there is a GP who is suffering.

Woman staring out of window
The GP hopes she can regain her voice – and maybe help others – by telling her story.

It wasn’t meant to be like this. She loves her profession and is proud of the connection she has with her patients. Proud of the fact that she scored extremely high on the RACGP’s exams.
But life has become very hard.
She is an international medical graduate (IMG),  a single mother, and a survivor of protracted family violence. She feels many of these attributes act as barriers to getting help.
‘With this combination, it is a real uphill battle. If you’re not in this situation, you wouldn’t think a lot about it. But I really want to help bring awareness to this,’ she told newsGP.
And the GPs says that there are many others like her, women who feel they simply cannot speak out. She has asked to tell her story, to gain a voice. She read about Dr Imaan Joshi’s efforts to rebuild after family violence.
But fear of associated stigma means this GP does not want to have her name or country of birth used. She does not want to rock the boat.
‘With a little mouth to feed, you tend to be very careful and try not to offend your boss. You cannot afford to lose your job, and quitting is not an option,’ she said.
‘There are a fair few of us [GPs] who survived or are surviving domestic violence. We do not have a voice. Lots of IMGs – we just have no idea. We didn’t graduate with a whole group of people. We landed in the country with no family or friends.’
While she has left the violent relationship, an ensuing legal battle has left her in financial dire straits.
She left her violent partner after she fell pregnant. She gave birth to a son and began raising him alone, but her partner would not leave them alone.
‘He was abusive to me and my little boy. He would hit him and hurt him. He would watch porn in front of him,’ she said.
‘The violence was not just physical, it was social and financial. I look like I am financially independent as a GP, but my income is less than my court costs. It has cost [the equivalent] of a house.’
As she has tried to rebuild, the GP has developed a strong set of friends, particularly with single mothers who work as doctors or other health professionals.
‘We share messages. I see that psychological violence is very common. I am not the only one with psychological trauma,’ she said. ‘I made the mistake of saying yes to the wrong person.
‘These are intelligent women who tend to have partners with a higher socioeconomic status. But domestic violence doesn’t stop because of that.
‘We had partners who were not good human beings, who were hurtful and deceiving. We might look back now and think – that was a trap. But at the time we didn’t know it was a person who would take us into such miserable situations.’
The GP said she was driven by the need to help her patients.
‘I’ve got principles. I want to be a good doctor, to do no harm, to treat patients as if they’re my family,’ she said.
‘You can ask my patients – they can feel I care. I work in a low socioeconomic area, and I often go out of my way to help my patients. I do truly care.
‘There must be many things we can do to help women in this situation. We shouldn’t feel so alone. My little boy loves me to bits. He says I’m the best mum in the world. But he sees me struggle, sees how hard I work. I used to get up between two and four in the morning to study.
‘If society can give me a hand, to help me get through these difficult times, then I can turn around and help others later.’
The GP recommended the Doctors Against Violence Towards Women group, founded by psychiatrist Dr Karen Williams, or to contact Dr Anita Hutchison, who is also involved in helping medical women in difficult situations.
The RACGP has resources on identifying family violence and offers a free mental health support program for GPs.

family violence IMG international medical graduates

newsGP weekly poll Which of the RACGP’s 2022 Advocacy Priorities would most benefit your practice?

newsGP weekly poll Which of the RACGP’s 2022 Advocacy Priorities would most benefit your practice?



Login to comment

Sonia   15/03/2019 11:03:44 PM

You are so brave. You worked so hard. I wish you all the very best!

Imaan Joshi   16/03/2019 11:38:40 AM

I’m so glad you’ve taken the brave step to speak up and fight for yourself.

It’s a long and hard road but you’ll find people willing to help and there will come a time when it won’t seem so hard, I promise.

Till then, pls let us know how we can help, on the Drs vs DV group as well as on the Solo Medical Mums group.