Domestic violence is one of the most underreported crimes in the country. Survivors often say that they failed to come forward about the abuse they endured out of fear or because they felt that they had no one to turn to for help. Now, doctors are being encouraged to screen women for domestic violence and refer them to support services.
The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force updated its recommendations in the Annals of Internal Medicine this week in an effort to curb what it calls inter-partner violence for the most vulnerable populations. That includes women of childbearing age, the elderly and vulnerable populations such as children or the disabled.
Approximately one-third of women and one-quarter of men report having experienced some form of domestic abuse during their lifetimes, according to a CNN report. Statistics from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence indicate that only 20 percent of those cases result in victims obtaining orders of protection against their abusers.
Doctors can help by performing screenings even on women who do not have a history of abuse or who do not demonstrate acute symptoms such as black eyes, bruising, lacerations or anxiety behaviors. Other long-term effects of abuse noted by the task force include sexually transmitted diseases, pelvic inflammatory disease, unintended pregnancies, chronic pain, neurological disorders and gastrointestinal problems, among others.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention already has a list of warning signs that primary care physicians should look for in assessing domestic violence. The CDC also provides information about abuse on the whole and resources for people in need.
But the task force says that guidelines have thus far been unclear for doctors, resulting in inconsistent definitions of abuse and overlooked signals from patient-victims. Physicians also were not adequately equipped to refer patients to the appropriate services for intervention.
The CDC defines domestic violence as “physical, sexual, or psychological harm by a current or former partner or spouse. This type of violence can occur among heterosexual or same-sex couples and does not require sexual intimacy.”
In addition, it emphasizes that domestic violence does not only occur to adults. Increasing attention has been paid to teenage victims of inter-partner violence in recent years.
If you are experiencing domestic violence, help is available from law enforcement, local groups such as Interact which provides victims’ support, the Wake County Courthouse and the family lawyers at Charles Ullman & Associates. Let us help you create a safe and healthy environment for you today by using our confidential contact form or by calling (877) 589-6938.