Asking the Tough Questions and Breaking the Cycle: Drugs and Violence in the home

By Suzanne Anderton

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The Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine

Recently I attended the annual Victorian Institute of Forensic Practitioners conference. It was an eye opening and amazing experience that created important discussion.

Wow what a day!

What did I learn?

I learnt that ICE (Methamphetamine) and synthetic cannabinoids (synthetic cannabis) are a huge issue in today’s society and destroys lives.

I learnt how to take good forensic photos

I learnt about the ever confusing mental health act and that in Victoria we are in desperate need of mental health beds for acutely unwell patients.

I leant a few new tips for using state wide forensic kits.

I learnt that some dodgy stuff goes on in our streets in the early hours of the morning.

I learnt that estimating the age of a wound, bruise or abrasion is not an exact science.

I learnt that good documentation and reporting writing. As well as being happy and well prepared is the key to giving evidence in court.

And finally I learnt about Victoria’s and more than likely Australia’s dirty, not so little secret. That family violence is just as lethal as ICE and synthetic cannabinoids.

Family Violence

An insightful session.

We were asked to write down our deepest darkest secret in the middle of a piece of paper and fold it into three.

Think about that for a second.

Would you do it?

Not knowing what would happen with that information after it was written down.

I did not write anything on the paper. Of course we all have our own secrets and mine is probably no worse than the next person however it is my secret and I was not sure I wanted a room full of almost strangers to be privileged to that information.

My thoughts were;

What if someone else seen it?

What if I have to read it out loud?

What if……..

This exercise showed us that victims of family violence may not want to reveal their secret for fear of what happens next.

Health Professionals

As health professionals I see it as our responsibility to ask the tough questions. Do those bruises, cuts and abrasions warrant further questioning? Is this patient experiencing violence in the home?

It is also worthwhile pointing out that violence is not always physical or sexual it can be emotional as well, for example: Control or manipulation over another and financial restriction.

Remembering more often than not the victims of family violence are women and children but do not forget men can be victims as well. Victims of family violence may also present with other symptoms which may be secondary to family violence such as:



GI upset

Low back pain

Difficulty sleeping

I say ask the question

Those bruises look very similar to bruises I seen on a victim of family violence. Is that happening to you?

Do you have any idea why you are feeling anxious? On a few occasions I have treated patients with anxiety who have been victims of emotional abuse. Do you think this is relevant to you?

Chances are the victim may deny family violence at first however you are planting the seed and giving them options. Maybe they never knew what they were experiencing was family violence, they may be scared they may even choose to leave the relationship and then go back, it’s a start.

The children

If nothing else think of the little people involved in family violence either as the direct victims or as innocent by standers to horrendous acts of physical and or emotional violence in their homes. The cumulative effects of experienced by children exposed to violence in the home far outreaches stunting of emotional growth and development. It’s setting them on the path to being victims or perpetrators of family violence.

As a mother a health practitioner and a women I am committed to breaking the cycle and I would love you to join me.

Please take the time to watch the following videos.  Keep the tissues handy as you may laugh and you may cry.forensics picture 2





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