Domestic and family violence when you have cancer
WARNING: This section contains material that is sometimes confronting and disturbing. Sometimes words or images can cause sadness or distress, or trigger traumatic memories for people, particularly survivors of past abuse, violence or childhood trauma.
Domestic violence can have a significant effect on the health outcomes, treatment decisions and care for someone during and after ovarian cancer. Domestic violence is the most common form of violence against women worldwide and women with cancer are at risk as well. The abuser may not be your intimate partner, but another family member or other person you live with.
The abuse can come in several forms and survivors/victims may suffer one or more of any of the following.
Physical: Physical abuse may come in the form of hitting, biting, scratching, pushing, slapping, kicking, choking, using weapons or objects to harm you. It may or may not cause bruises, abrasions, cuts or scarring.
Sexual: Any form of unwanted sexual activity, with the perpetrator using force, emotional tactics, making threats or taking advantage of the survivor/victim not able to or wanting to give consent to the sexual activity.
Emotional/psychological: Any kind of abuse that is emotional or mental rather than physical in nature. This may include verbal abuse, shouting, constant criticism or using more subtle tactics, such as intimidation, manipulation, humiliation and refusal to ever seem grateful. Emotional abuse isn’t always verbal; it can be enacted through behaviours.
Financial: Controlling a survivor/victim’s ability to gain, use and maintain their money and financial resources.
Coercive control: This can include gaslighting (where a person or group of people makes someone question their sanity, perception of reality or memories), controlling how someone looks or what they eat, isolating the survivor/victim from family and friends, monitoring a partner’s activities, and jealousy and possessiveness.
Additionally, when someone is being abused, and has cancer, they may suffer even more complications. For example, the person with cancer may be relying on the abuser for help with activities of daily living (showering, eating), medications, financial needs and transport to appointments. This allows the abuser to feel more in control and powerful, leaving the person with cancer feeling more frightened or unable to change their situation.
Please know that support is available. We have attached resources below that you, or someone that you know may find helpful.
If you (or someone else) are in danger, or if you have been threatened, physically hurt or sexually assaulted, call triple zero (000).
Family and domestic violence – Information, referrals and support for people affected by family and domestic violence, servicesaustralia.gov.au/family-anddomestic-violence
1800 RESPECT – National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service, 1800 737 732, 1800respect.org.au