Violence against women: Strengthening the health system response

Violence against women: Strengthening the health system response

Violence against women.

One in three women experience violence at the hands of their husband or partner, that’s over 800 million women worldwide. These women can feel trapped, afraid their lives are often restricted, those who consider leaving often fear ending up penniless or losing their children. Over time the confidence slips away making a life without violence seemed a distant memory.

The abuse can lead to injuries as well as serious physical and mental health problems, in some cases even death. Many women contract sexually transmitted infections or have unintended pregnancies and when pregnant, have a greater risk of miscarriage or of having a premature or low birth weight baby.

They can experience depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems or become addicted to drugs and alcohol. It can be hard to know who to trust or where to turn but there is a place they can go. A visit to a local clinic is often one of the few opportunities women have to go out alone and it’s important for doctors and nurses to make sure this isn’t a missed opportunity.

When doctors, nurses, and midwives listened with compassion; survivors are more likely to share their story when they ask the right questions. They can uncover what is really happening and challenge cultural attitudes that say it’s okay for a husband to hit his wife. They can reassure women that it’s not their fault and can work with women to help them stay safe and where necessary connect them with other services that can provide for example shelter, psychological support, legal services and financial opportunities.

More women can find their way to a life without violence. When changes are implemented across healthcare and other systems changes, such as private rooms for consultations, training that enables doctors and nurses to respond better to women’s needs and raising awareness of the harmful consequences of violence for women and children and how to prevent it.

Making these changes helps foster a culture where violence is unacceptable and where women have the courage to speak out. Imagine if that could happen to each and every one of those 800 million women.

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