Table of Contents
International Journal of Family Medicine
Volume 2013, Article ID 198578, 7 pages
Review Article

“Preventing the Pain” When Working with Family and Sexual Violence in Primary Care

1Department of General Practice, Monash University, Building 1, 270 Ferntree Gully Road, Notting Hill, VIC 3168, Australia
2Sexual Violence Research Initiative, Gender and Health Research Unit, Medical Research Council, Private Bag x385, Pretoria 0001, South Africa
3School of Psychology and Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Monash University, Clayton, VIC 3800, Australia

Received 30 November 2012; Accepted 18 January 2013

Academic Editor: Kate Joyner

Copyright © 2013 Jan Coles et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Primary care professionals (PCPs) are increasingly being expected to identify and respond to family and sexual violence as the chronic nature and severity of the long-term health impacts are increasingly recognized. This discussion paper reports the authors’ expert opinion from their experiences running international workshops to prevent trauma among those who work and research sexual violence. It describes the burnout and secondary traumatic stress literature which provides the evidence supporting their work. Implications for practicing basic training in response to trauma and ongoing education are a key area for responding to family violence and preventing professional stress. A professional culture that supports and values caring well for those who have experienced family violence as well as “caring for the carer” is needed. Working in teams and having more support systems in place are likely to protect PCPs from secondary traumatic stress and burnout. Undergraduate and postgraduate training of PCPs to develop trauma knowledge and the skills to ask about and respond to family violence safely are essential. In addition, the healthcare system, workplace, and the individual practitioner support structures need to be in place to enable PCPs to provide safe and effective long-term care and access to other appropriate services for those who have experienced family violence.