A Safe Place
There is a couch in my consulting room.
It is not much to look at. I bought it online so that new mums could be more comfortable breastfeeding. The back cushions are getting a bit squashy now.
I’m going to tell you a secret about this couch. People tell me things when they sit here.
It sometimes starts with this is a bit embarrassing…
I keep a box of tissues next to the couch. It gets used a lot.
We talk about infertility, pregnancy loss, anxiety, trouble sleeping, sex, pain and all those worries about your body that you can’t tell anyone else.
This is the magic of the couch.
You really can tell me anything in this room. I will not judge you. After years of working as a GP it is pretty much impossible to embarrass me.
There is something I especially want you to feel comfortable talking about. Something that is so important, but terribly hard to bring up.
Do you feel safe at home?
It’s a simple question, but for many women this may bring up a creeping feeling of anxiety and unease. Yes, of course, you hear yourself say.
If I ask this question, I am not just asking about your physical safety. Not all bruises can be seen.
Home should be a place where you feel emotionally safe. It should not be a place with harsh words, raised voices or threats. You should never feel like you are walking on eggshells in your own home. You should not feel anxiety about going home or when you hear the front door open.
You should be free to responsibly spend money when you need to.
You should be supported in seeing your family and friends whenever you wish to.
You should be safe to say you don’t feel like having sex, with no negative consequences.
You should be supported in seeking help with your mental health. This does not make you crazy, it makes you human.
You should never have your messages or social media monitored or controlled.
You should be trusted to go out alone or with friends.
You should be able to work outside the home if you wish to.
Remember, not all bruises are visible.
If you ever feel that you are not as safe as you should be, I want you to know that you can tell me. I will never judge you.
I promise to listen.
I promise I will believe you.
I will never pressure you.
I just want you to know that this is a place where those unthinkable words can be said out loud.
If you don’t know how to bring it up or don’t feel safe to do so during an appointment, just start with this - I need to talk about your couch. If you use those words, I will know what you mean. I will help in any way I can.
If you or a loved one are experiencing domestic violence and need support, you can also seek support at 1800respect.org.au or by calling 1800 737 732. If you are in immediate danger, please call 000.
Support can also be found at Emma House in Warrnambool, by phoning 1800 366 238 or at emmahouse.org.au.
If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, you can seek help 24 hours a day via Lifeline on 13 11 14 or lifeline.org.au. In Portland, help can also be sought at the Portland Mental Health Service on 5522 1000.