The role of physiotherapists in treating survivors of sexual assault

December 8th, 2020

Melissa Locke

On behalf of the Australian Physiotherapy Council, I am pleased to share the recent publication co-authored by one of our valued Board members, Director Lucy Chipchase, who is not afraid to question and challenge for the greater good.

Professor Chipchase is an experienced academic, currently at Flinders University with the College of Nursing and Health Sciences, who has a broad understanding of the issues in the profession and our community. She possesses diverse experience within healthcare, and is a strong advocate for women. Professor Chipchase’s research interests include the health care experience of CALD and migrant communities. Her work is built on a strong ethical basis and the Council are grateful for her courage and contribution to this conversation on how our profession can be better equipped to respond to survivors of sexual assault.

Professor Chipchase’s editorial brings to light several challenging aspects for our physiotherapy profession in response to the treatment of survivors of sexual assault.

As physiotherapists, we play a role in responding to many health crisis and trauma of our patients in a raft of different scenarios. And in this context of growing international recognition, especially through the #metoomovement, of the once hidden reality of sexual harassment and sexual assault, physiotherapists are healthcare professionals who have an important role in treating and helping sexual assault survivors to recover and heal.

The article co-authored by Professor Chipchase, Janine Stirling and K Jane Chalmers, points to research as the foundation for discussion as to how our profession can respond to the alarming statistic that one in four women in Australia have experienced sexual assault in their lifetime.

This is confronting when we consider the significant impact this kind of trauma has on people’s physical, social, emotional and psychological health.

We highly commend this article for your reading, and invite the physiotherapy profession to ask the question as to how we can build our capacity to respond to survivors, and seek to address the long term and multi-faceted impacts of sexual harassment and assault. The article can be found here in the Australian Physiotherapy Association’s Journal of Physiotherapy.

From Melissa Locke Chair of the Australian Physiotherapy Council

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