Female healthcare workers experience domestic abuse at higher rates than the general female population

Nearly half of female healthcare workers have experienced domestic abuse, Australian study finds

A landmark investigation into female healthcare staff in Australia has found nearly half have experienced domestic violence, including one in 10 who had been abused by their partner in the past year alone.

The study, published in the BMC Women’s Health journal, involved 471 doctors, nurses and health professionals in Victoria and is believed to be the first to examine the link between domestic violence and female medical staff.

Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows 2.1 per cent of women in the community have experienced physical and/or sexual violence from their partner in the past year, compared to 4.7 per cent of the female healthcare workers in the study.

This fits with what Don Hennessy says. Don is a relationship counselor and has dealt with thousands of men who abuse their female partners, as well as many women who have suffered domestic abuse.

Don Hennessy says that men who abuse their female intimate partners prefer to target women who are kind, loyal, dedicated and truthful. His ideas on this are spelled out in more detail here: How the male intimate abuser selects, sets-up & grooms a target woman


Further reading

Our Don Hennessy Digest gives comprehensive info about Don Hennessy and his work.

27 thoughts on “Female healthcare workers experience domestic abuse at higher rates than the general female population”

  1. My ex husband’s first wife was in a helping profession, as was I, and now his girlfriend also works in a healthcare setting.

    1. Thanks TriedtoAddressPastors

      I had not published your comment ’til I got the message to change your screen name. 🙂

      Btw, you can send those kinds of messages to me by just submitting another comment to the blog and saying at the beginning of the comment Do Not Publish This — or words to that effect.

  2. I literally just today have realised God is saying it’s ok for me to leave my healthcare sector job, after having 3 incredibly triggering incidents in the last couple months. Today was the third incident. I will have to return to income support now and am planning to leave the industry completely.

    Since I work in the community in people’s homes, I have the added problem that there are actually perps I am caring for, who are now too old to find new victims, so they instead get their abusive power kicks out of aggressive sexual talk to me in an indirect way. (Talking about rape and murder of women etc, or derogatory highly offensive sexual things said about other women.) Then I get peered or rather leered at after. I know it is covert abuse. I don’t know if they have done it to other staff, and I know that since I am still in the early stages of healing since leaving my husband, that I still must show low confidence, and maybe they think I am an easy victim? I’ve also thought it could be spiritual….that demonic forces know my weaknesses and the specific way I was abused by my husband, and therefore have these clients say triggering things to me? I don’t know. I just know after today I can’t do it anymore.

    Just working alone in men’s homes who have been diagnosed with psychosis mental illness is triggering enough for me too. I don’t feel safe at all. My employer doesn’t seem to care enough about our safety.

    After the incident today I went to my physician and told her I need to leave my job. She said she will support me if I get penalised by the government welfare agency for leaving a job, but in the meantime she has given me a letter stating that I can only work in females homes from here on in due to ‘past traumatic experiences’. I have no idea how this will be received by my employer, and they are a very large well-known care organisation, so their reaction will be interesting. I have kept my DV history private from them until now, and feel a bit annoyed I have to reveal it to them. If they just made sure they sent workers in pairs to clients like these, it would be a lot safer.

    This may not even be appropriate to post. I’m still coming down from the trigger that happened late today, and venting really. If this post sounds too identifying please don’t post it. I’m a bit too upset right now to tell if it is or not.

    Thanks. 🙂

  3. The stats themselves seem really low. Perhaps Australian women have it better than women in other countries. DV must have been narrowly defined or the survey was administered in such a way that victims didn’t feel confident or comfortable in sharing their victimization.

    I wonder if ACFJ couldn’t do an informal poll. How many women do each of us know who are being abused? Or were abused? Many women are locked in with marriage and then the addition of kids basically seals the fate of the abused women.

    Indeed, the kind ones of society are the choice prey of abusers.

    1. Name Withheld — I’m one of those who stayed because I chose to forgive; believed broken promises; stayed for the young children so they could have a daddy. I was also fearful that I couldn’t leave because financially, I could never give the children what they already enjoyed. I feared losing them to him and his family as they could easily entice them with their gifts and money.

      In the end, I still lost the children as they matured — they have chosen him and the relatives instead of me, “the religious one”. (at one time they all claimed to be Christians)

      So, other forms of abuse have stopped from him, however the emotional abuse from all of them has become more heartbreaking; especially from the children whom I nurtured. 😦

      1. I’m also in the healthcare field after being a stay-at-home mother. Everyone tells me what a compassionate person I am. I always wave them off and tell them that I can’t be because my family doesn’t think so. Recently a co-worker pointed out that I can’t seem to take compliments. I confided that counselors have explained to me that the reason I find it difficult to receive compliments is because from a very young age and into my adult years I have been ‘used’ and thus feel unworthy.

      2. What a tragic story. But hopefully some of our readers will benefit from hearing your experience.

        BTW, healinginhim, when you comment the URL to your WordPress blog is automatically put into the comments form….and I remove it before I publish your comments, because I don’t know whether it is safe for you to be identified that way.

        It would save me time if you either manually removed that URL before hitting ‘submit’, or if you set your WordPress settings so that the URL of your blog did not automatically get put into your comments on other people’s WordPress blogs.

      3. Thank you, Barb for the ((hug)). 🙂
        And thank you for information about the WordPress settings. I’ve been having trouble lately with settings and will try to rectify that.

      4. So very sorry for your heart pain. I do hope that you are able to find spiritual rest and comfort in the Savior’s arms.

  4. Don Hennessy says that men who abuse their female intimate partners prefer to target women who are kind, loyal, dedicated and truthful.

    That is the majority of all women.

  5. (Extreme airbrushing…)

    Abused by my entire family of origin.
    Abused by my anti-x.
    Abused by my “friends”.
    Abused in all my workplaces, including health care related.

    Loved by God.

  6. I wish I had kept record of all the women who shared a portion of their personal lives with me, during my career. I worked in the dental field and traveled to many different offices. It seems women in abusive relationships intuitively know when it is safe to share about their home or family or origin situation. Stories were shared quietly in the labs when just two of us were together. Also, patients shared their stories. Many, many women employees were / had been in abusive relationships.

    Even now, as I encounter healthcare workers who are running tests on me or writing out a prescription, etc, I continue to hear of many living in abusive relationships or having gotten out recently. Often, it occurs after I share that I am now out of a [over three decade] abuse relationship.

    Today, I was the patient in a pulmonology office. The doctor proactively asked me if I was living in a safe or abusive situation. It is her routine question to women.

      1. At least two of the hospitals and one surgical center in the state where I reside have a protection protocol. All female patients are questioned by a female employee. When the patient is alone, she is asked questions relevant to her safety and if she is in a domestic violence situation. Even my 89 year old friend was given [the] opportunity to express her status.

        I was questioned while I was still married, in the surgical center. When I replied that, indeed, I was in an abusive relationship and that my now ex was in the waiting area, they became proactive.

        My procedure was halted, they responded just as if my life was threatened, physically. They asked if I wanted to file a police report.

        They helped me call a family member to pick me up. They detained my ex until I was picked up. They offered to call for police protection to meet me at my house when I went to pick up some belongings to take to my family member’s home, temporarily.

        It was the first time I was encouraged to admit the abuse. For years, I cried out to various ‘C’hristian entities, but [was] always dismissed.

      2. I neglected an important statement after being escorted safely to a family member’s home.

        Within [number redacted] months of this affirming incident, I actually filed divorce papers on my own ex.

        I had my paperwork in order, interviewed two attorneys, and felt halted for over a year, not feeling sure of myself to move forward with divorce. The support and affirmation of the medical community gave me the courage needed to actually file.

        In a real sense, the medical community saved my life, literally.

  7. That is interesting but not surprising.

    I am in the healthcare field as well and was abused by 2 husbands. I am not looking for a 3rd!

    In hindsight I would say both ex’s were interested in me partly because of the nurse’s salary I would bring in and when I refused to be their slave and work where they thought I should (instead of where my interest was) the abuse intensified.

  8. I was wondering what you thought about Kim Saeed and her Breakfree Bootcamp? I am in the process of breaking free of my abusive marriage and I signed up for the Bootcamp this week. I haven’t seen anything that I find hurtful or victim blaming but I know she is not a Christian and perhaps I should be wary of her advice?

    1. We have not heard of Kim Saeed or her Breakfree Bootcamp, but with a title like ‘Breakfree Bootcamp’ it sounds like it’s promising a quick fix — and in our experience quick fix promises are shallow and flakey, like the waterless clouds mentioned in Jude.

  9. It would be a fantastic question to some men too if the doctor got a hint of abuse. Most men do not willingly open up (I’m one of them but I’m learning to), it’s a shame thing and yes, it is a male proud thing too, I guess that society has placed on us. We are to be the stronger one not show emotion don’t cry etc. It’s probably as much drummed into us from parents or grandparents etc to our detriment and sadly perhaps one of the reasons abusive men feel they must show their male dominance. Both are wrong. There’s no balance there.

    My dad was the same until he found Jesus and often now he shows his sensitive side, although he still, like most men, tries to hide it. Many in society see it as “womanly” or our ‘female’ [or] dare I say it ‘sissy side’. People in my work would right away ask or snidely comment, “Are you gay?” ….it’s drummed in – a man just does not show his sensitive side or else he’s ridiculed or setting himself up for some. In my opinion this is why so few of us share anything of our heart. If we are abused it’s terrible shame we feel. I still feel it very strongly. We are to be the strong one! In our heads – “How weak are you when a woman can control and get away with verbal physical even sexual abuse. You are a wimp you are not a man.”

    I’ve often stood my ground and said, “I’m more of a man than you think. I’m not afraid to show my sensitive side.” However at times I’m afraid to show or say anything and bottle it up, I’d be so ashamed to reveal things.

    There’s things no one knows, only God.

    1. Now Free, abusers target loving, caring people. Obviously you are a loving, caring person if you have suffered the pain of another person taking advantage of the fact that you ARE loving and caring. Those are GOOD qualities, not female or male, just good. Be who you are and grow to the point where you don’t need others’ approval. I am sorry for what you have been through. I hope you are out and healing.

      1. Thank you Debby for [your] kind words. I’m beginning to realise that an old work colleague was right: people target you because of your kind loving nature and take full advantage if they can.

        It would be interesting to hear how many people in abusive relationships have also found they get the same in other places i.e. work or social groups, sports teams, church.

        I was heavily criticised recently with a torrent of verbal abuse and within it [was?] stated that my wife, past girlfriends, church, work, “seems you have problems with them all and been abused everywhere”, and I was made to feel that I’m the problem. [They / the person said] “Stop playing the victim!! After all how could all these people be abusive towards you.”

        They were then going to take it upon themselves to dig dirt on me knowing or having some measure of contact with people I have known or still know. It is frightening to say the least, the damage that could cause. Some would just love more fuel to give out.

        I’m just interested as we are targeted — do others find they are not just receiving abuse at home in private, but often elsewhere by bosses colleagues, etc?

        It’s only starting to dawn on me things I just felt were bad people wherever I went, it is a target thing. I’ve for many years just thought I was cursed or something. It certainly didn’t help, my pastor telling me I was.

        Thanks again Debby. I only saw your response this morning. It was very nice to come into work and be encouraged for a change. Have a good day and may the Lord bless you for your kind encouragement.

  10. When we open up to others and we receive abuse or our trust is abused and misunderstood (giving further abuse) it’s even more heart-wrenchingly painful and extremely hard to trust anyone. I’ve been sidelined in my thoughts – nothing new. 🙂 I’ve just gone through this this week, with a health worker whom I got too close to.

    I’m thankful that my doctor, 3 years ago when I revealed my wife’s abuse of me, literally and very loudly yelled at me to get out of my marriage and run and don’t look back. I nearly fell of my seat I drew back so much in shock at the strength of his advice. I never thought a doctor would ever speak like that to anyone, but I’m eternally grateful he did and it’s noted in his notes.

    I’d only had to tell him once of some of the things. He believed me!! I had already the day before approached a solicitor for a separation.

    Oh how I had wished I’d gone earlier.
    I went on my dad’s wise counsel to get everything medically documented and a medical opinion. He’d seen how low I was and in wisdom let me make the decisions. “Just in case you may need it“ he advised “when things kick off or there’s any contest in court for house etc etc. You need to document your side of things with authorities because you bet your wife is telling them all sorts.” He’d seen it all before with my sister and her alcoholism and her abusive husband. Be wise and let your doctor know everything. It’s all there in writing and is in strictest confidence. It wasn’t easy to do, but I did not have to tell my whole story.

    I’m glad my doctor then got me some free counselling sessions (also noted and confidentially kept if I wanted them to) which was not great (there’s a serious lack of mental heath and properly trained medical staff / counsellors) but at least I was heard and [had] a place to vent. I was not told I was stupid and I was for first time ever truly listened to. It’s so important to not just know or hear, but listen. I found out I was financially abused, spiritually abused and much more and even things in my family that were certainly abusive.

    I gained much strength to get out and also to stand up against wrongful thinking in my family. At that point I’d been “put away quietly” by my pastor and wife.

    Sadly, they were not long enough sessions and I was let down right at the most crucial time of leaving and all hell was breaking loose. I used to use that term very reservedly, almost never, but now I realise who was behind it all and I can say yes my wife was the one abused me, but it was evil and Satan very much behind it all. Counsellors need resources better to help better. You cannot put a time limit on things and in my case it took over 6 months from first saying to a doctor (I’m still surprised I had not topped myself in meantime) and after end of sessions you had to reapply, and perhaps another 6 months to a year waiting list. That kind of response is certainly not adequate or helpful. I felt totally abandoned in my hour of need coming so far to “like falling off a cliff” left in the edge definitely.

    To a man giving us telephone numbers, well I have them, have I used them – no – why? I guess the same as I said before.
    It takes true people to grab a victim by the hand physically and say lovingly “lets go get coffee and chat” sometimes. I’d have given anything for someone to have given me that. I say true because we need to be wary of course.

    Satan is on the losing side. I may be damaged and scarred but in Christ I am not out and certainly not lost! Whoohooooooo!!!!!

    Interesting note about healthcare workers – I wonder how many are abused, raped etc not just domestically but targeted simply as they are vulnerable in caring for patients who may target….and simply due to their shift hours. Many I’ve encountered here have had terrible situations on the way home from nightshift or have been tired due to long shifts weekends and exhausting hours let alone highly stressful jobs and are just “shields-down” women who are not at their strongest in body mind or spirit often simply due to nature of their work. Some having to take taxis or walk home at terrible dangerous hours. So open to predators. In the home with little strength and less will at times to fight or take a stand.

    I remember my nightshifts and when I got hella [slang for very?] abused I was just too tired to stand up. It was easier just to take it and go to bed. Often it would happen to lengthen those waking hours that sleep depravation made life harder again. The abuser was so cunning.

    I’ve also found too that things go on in hospitals regularly that constitutes abuse and it’s overlooked as there is more pressing matters of life and death going on. It’s only afterwards a lot is revealed but is also covered up by senior staff to protect system from media attention etc. Or from a legal battle with relatives.

    As Barbara also knows that recently I’ve even been at the receiving end of some horrendous verbal abuse from a woman who works in the health sector. That aside, she [the woman who works in the health sector] in turn has also been a victim of an abusive man and landlords in rental situations (working away from home as agency workers or from other countries) and from people she just happened to be tenants with in the same rental properties.

    They [female heath care workers] have regularly been physically abused whilst doing their job and some sexually abused. Some from other staff but a lot by right minded but abusive patients. Some by people who have mental health problems or abusive natures. They are expected to be professional and just carry on. Their training certainly helps but, like with us all, abuse takes it toll. Many end up depressed and many take their own lives. I’ve a very high respect as I’ve seen it first hand with family etc who are in the medical profession.

    I’ve noticed that some night workers come in and are at home during the day and as most are out of homes bar perhaps one male not working or also on nights, it has opened up vulnerabilities that abusers have taken advantage of. E.g. An unemployed husband or abusive parent, etc.

    As Don and others rightly point out, their kind and loving nature makes people a target – is it any wonder then many health workers are abused.

    Very interesting too that lots in health care can also trigger a victim. I’ve seen this first hand and also witnessed their in turn abusive response.

    It would be good to hear of further studies on the whole subject.

    I’m also wondering just how much men “get off” having [abusing? having a spouse who is?] a woman in healthcare and feel the whole fantasy-thing and pornography kind of thing, with nurse / doctor roleplays in sex prevalent in society. Does this perhaps also play into abuser’s hands and in some ways increase their entitlement, superiority feelings leading to sexual abuse. Many of you report your spouse [is] into pornography but I wonder how much that can fuel a man further if already abusive. As a man I think it desensitises a man into treating women as “meat”. Treating women as objects for to meet their pleasure rather than equal human beings to be loved and cherished.

    Big topics but the whole healthcare thing can fall into a number of subcategories of abuse and victims.

    We need to continue to support our healthcare workers and I think there should be a regular routine counsel set up to give opportunity to open up, just as they are regularly given health screening for HIV etc., and regularly (certainly here) police checked. It could all be combined.

    Wouldn’t it help if they had an outlet with these questions regularly asked of them, like this fantastic doctor has done, as a routine part of their healthcare checkup.

    1. (Extreme airbrushing…)

      Some recent news documentaries have disclosed many forms of abuse in seniors / assisted living / rehabilitation complexes, the incidents caught on camera. Due to licensing / registration issues – of the complexes and / or personnel – many incidents passed through the cracks….including hospitalizations and eventual death. The tip-offs had not originated at the institutional level. Everyone played “pass the buck”, from staff to families to institutions to politicians.

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