Domestic violence(DV) is a common phenomenon, with it attributing to more physical injuries for women than even car accident and rapes combined. The nature of domestic violence, the stigma behind it, often means that incidents of violence largely go unreported and that leaves us with no true idea of just how far the issue actually reaches. Traditionally domestic violence has been focused on reactive work, like helping the victims of domestic violence find shelter or counseling after their perpetrator has been arrested. It is well known that the application of a reactive response only manages to help a very small number of women across the country, because it is uncommon for the victim of domestic violence to take the case to law enforcement authorities.
Increasingly, domestic violence is acknowledged on a sliding scale and there has been an increased amount of interest in an early detection and prevention program. The dual role of health services as a care provider to help mend the physical injuries of domestic violence victims, and as a key method by which to identify and assess risk for future potential future domestic violence is recognized and acknowledged. Health service providers present the opportunity to have a point at which someone can be helped before physical and psychological injuries reach the point of no return, and reactive response is the only answer. Imagine being able to stop domestic violence before it reaches the point of isolation, depression and no answers for the victim.
An early detection system manned by certified medical professionals is the ideal system, particularly when using information provided by General Practitioners (GP’s) who treat families; pregnant women and children. Medical professionals, however, cite an uneasiness when considering the idea of building an “early warning” system for detecting domestic violence before it takes root. Doctors feel that they are not adequately trained detail abuse histories that deviate from traditional medical illness, they worry about referring to the proper channels and they worry themselves over being able to take the proper amount of time to counsel their patients. However, what honestly pushes aside all of these concerns is the simple reality that most of these doctors are simply afraid that they are going to harm their patients with incorrect advice. There is not a single person reading this who cannot feel for those doctors, because we have all spent a late night worrying if we have given a friend or a relative the “right” advice.
There are methods by which we can work beyond the fear, so that we can give both the adults and children undergoing domestic violence the early detection system that they need. We need to pull apart the topic into several separate issues, all of which must be dealt with by health professionals and local authorities but are pertinent enough that you all still need to know what needs to be done.
- We need to look at what kind of training and support is available for health professionals.
- We need to look at the current level of training for medical professionals, and what kind of support is given by hospital/clinic staff.
- We need to determine if these services, and the current method for referral, is actually both equitable and effective for the victims of domestic violence.
- We need to determine if there is anything that can be added to the training of medical professionals to aid the process of early detection of domestic violence.
What can all of this do?
In situations where medical professionals have been provided at least one day of intensive training regarding domestic violence detection, and given good inter-agency contact, inquiry has proven to have an impact on overall early detection. In order for inquiry to have the greatest impact, it is also necessary that victim advocacy groups and perpetrator evaluation programs both play an active role in ongoing communications between both medical centers and local authorities.
How can we make this happen?
- We need to find a base of General Practitioners who want to identify domestic violence early.
- We need to train the General Practitioners, and give them easy to use materials for their office work.
- We need to give General Practitioners a support system that is covered by support groups, evaluation groups and local law enforcement.
- We need y-o-u to raise your voice, and let the world know that you want a domestic violence “early detection” system.
Granting medical professionals the right to build a domestic violence early detection may seem contradictory to the psychological nature of the crime, but they are in a unique position that is so different than advocacy groups. General Practitioners see us when we are young and unencumbered by the burdens of life, they see us when we hit highs and they also see us at our lowest points in life. It uniquely qualifies these medical professionals to know when there may be a problem that has suddenly changed what may have been a confident demeanor, or they will find that a break or bruises make no sense when compared to the reason reported for the injury. It is time that we gave General Practitioners the opportunity, the training and the desire to help victims of domestic violence before the true isolation ever begins.
While this is the best possible plan for building an early warning system for domestic violence, it is going to take time and advocacy to ensure that the system works. While the infrastructure is built, PLEASE understand the warning signs of domestic violence and help someone who is in need of assistance.