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Domestic Violence: More Common Than You Think

Browsing through my October ENA Connection the other day, I noticed the theme was “Government and Advocacy”. Came across an article on domestic violence. It’s a short article, written by Carrie Norman, RN, CEN, member of the Government Affairs Committee. The quotes below are taken from Carrie’s article.

“The CDC estimates that 37 percent of women who sought emergency department care were victims of domestic violence.”

What? 37 out of every 100 women I have triaged?

Seriously?

“Domestic violence victims are more likely to seek treatment for chronic and psychological conditions.”

Okay. But no way have I been taking care of victims of domestic abuse – I mean, hello, wouldn’t it be obvious? The hovering, overbearing abuser who answers all the questions for the patient? The bruises that aren’t explained by the story?

You know, the stereotypical, classic scenario?

“The stress of physical/emotional abuse has been linked to many chronic conditions such as: chronic pain, fibromyalgia, frequent migraines and abdominal and gastrointestinal complaints.”

Well, yeah, I knew that.

But….

I screen them, right? It’s part of triage.

Well, actually I check one of two boxes. Abuse: “Not suspected” or “Yes”.

And unless someone says “He/she hit me”, I check “Not suspected.”

What kind of a screening is that? How can you screen for a problem when you don’t even have to ask the question, you just have to “not suspect” it?

*****

How many women have I missed?

When you came in for the fifth time in a month with abdominal pain for which no etiology could be found and for which you never sought follow up…

Did I miss you?

I’ll never know.

I didn’t ask.

When you presented with migraines on such a regular basis for so many years I got to know you like family…

Did I miss you?

I’ll never know.

I never asked.

When you sat in triage inconsolably sobbing over a skinned knee at 3:00 am because you “tripped in the garden”…

I missed you, didn’t I?

Because I never asked.

*****

“Many women experience some form of violence in their home. I’m here to listen and I may have some suggestions to help.”

Hopefully, there is something we can do immediately.

Or, the patient may not be ready, may not feel it is a safe time to leave.

But, just having someone ask the question and offer resources for when she is ready can let her know she has options.

And give her a sense of empowerment to make the decisions she needs to make.

The bottom line?

Ask the question.

I am.

Should have been doing it all along.

*This blog post was originally published at Emergiblog*


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