Helping a Victim of Domestic Violence (for Medical Professionals)

PRACTICAL IDEAS ABOUT
HOW TO HELP

Someone you suspect
is a victim of

Domestic Violence

~ A guide for health practitioners ~

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CALL
THE FAMILY REFUGE CENTER AT
(304) 645-6334 OR (866) 645-6334

  • Validate and offer support – sometimes that’s all that’s needed
  • Know local resources, shelter location, magistrate numbers, etc.
  • Know how to safety plan if she is in danger – or get someone who can
  • Repeat Sara Buel suggestions:
    1. “I’m concerned for you and the safety of your children.
    2. The abuse always gets worse.
    3. I’m here for you when you’re ready.
    4. You deserve better than this”.
  • Establish THEN FOLLOW a DV protocol. This should contain a mechanism on how to routinize inquiry about abuse and the item(s) should be placed on routine assessment tools.
  • Write thorough, objective medical reports about violent incidents in the patient’s own words (e.g. “my husband hit me with a ball bat” rather than “patient alleges abuse”). Medical records stand alone in misdemeanor cases in WV and you won’t need to go to court to defend the medical record.
  • With patient’s permission, take pictures of injuries/trauma. (Be sure to include 1 of face, her name, date, and your name)
  • Follow-up appointments decrease isolation and give support

During a November, 1995 conference, Dr. Ann Flitcraft, M.D. offered 3 clinical intervention strategies providers can use to assist victims in their practice. These are:

  1. IDENTIFY/ACKNOWLEDGE – that the patient’s abusive situation at home is a health care problem. It is not something for only the legal community to deal with. It is ridiculous to stabilize a gunshot wound without talking about how it was inflicted. Likewise it is inappropriate to prescribe with out an understanding of how the patient is treated at home.
  2. PROVIDE MEDICAL CARE IN THE CONTEXT OF THE VIOLENCE – if a woman has a spinal cord injury from being thrown off a roof, she did not have an “accident”. Be supportive and respectful. Don’t minimize. Being able to discuss the abuse is part of the healing process. Ask supportive, non-judgmental questions, and call it what it is.
  3. ALWAYS CONSIDER SAFETY – Before the patient leaves the office, address the 3 issues of injury, isolation, and fear. With respect to injury, find out if there are weapons in the home and if injuries are more frequent/severe. With respect to isolation, find out how many people (other than the abuser) the woman sees daily. Discuss outside activities, where she goes, who she sees, etc. Finally, discuss fear. The greater the fear, isolation, and injuries, the greater the level of danger.
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