Australia’s first women-only mental health facility for domestic and sexual abuse survivors will open this August, offering trauma-informed PTSD support for those at the centre of Australia’s “unseen epidemic.”
The Women’s Trauma Recovery Centre, able to host 43 patients at a time, will be built in Wollongong, in the nation’s southeast.
A vacant rehabilitation clinic will be the base for the new facility, at a cost of $8 million.
Throughout Australia, an average of one woman a week is murdered by her current or former intimate partner. One in four, meanwhile, experience emotional abuse from a partner, while one in six experience physical or sexual violence.
Half of all Australian women have experienced sexual harassment in their lifetime.
"Significant national and state data clearly shows that this is a public health emergency,” Illawarra Women’s Health Centre General Manager Sally Stevenson told the University of Wollongong’s Outlook magazine. “The impact of the pandemic has critically exacerbated this emergency and thrown into stark relief the lack of services available to women seeking support.”
A report from 2020 showed that for many Australian women, the COVID-19 pandemic was directly linked to the start or rise of violence and abuse. Findings from last year backed the data in the 2020 report, with research firm Ipsos revealing that Australian men have some of the most misogynistic beliefs among Western nations, with the group polling well above average.
Stevenson, who has helped spearhead the new facility, says the centre will be co-designed by those with lived experience.
🧵 1/ This week, I have been asked multiple times- why this new Trauma Hospital is for women-only.— 🐀Dr Karen Williams MPH FRANZCP 🐀 (@DrWilliams) May 10, 2022
I have been accused of discriminating against male victims of trauma.
‘What about men?’ They ask, and I would like to explain why. @PatsKarvelas@EleniPsaltis@kelfuller
While the centre will initially only be open to women with private health insurance, Karen Williams, a psychiatrist with the Illawarra Women’s Health Centre, says she hopes Women’s Trauma Recovery Centres can soon open to the public across the country.
"We all acknowledge it would not be fair or equitable that people who do not have money can't afford it, but we have to start somewhere," she told ABC News. "At this stage where we have nothing at all, we are happy to have this to show that it works to prove that the concept is important and worthwhile and using the results to argue this should be available to all women around Australia."
Alongside the centres, Stevenson and Williams hope increased funding in the recent federal budget and growing public support against gender inequality will likewise see mandatory trauma education and training programs made available for all health professionals.