Anyone can be a victim of sexual and domestic violence, but survey found that women are more likely to carry the burden of these types of violence. Think about the recently leaked video of NFL player Ray Rice beating his then-fiancee Janay. It’s all too common: According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, more than 31 percent of women in the U.S. have been physically abused by an intimate partner at some point in their lives.
Violence and trauma to women of all ages can result in serious injuries, chronic health problems, and even death. Identifying current or past abusive experiences can make a profound impact in their lives, preventing further abuse, reducing the incidence of disability, and improving health and well-being.
This also brought me to the discussion of the Affordable Care Act requiring all new health plans to provide coverage for preventive health services, including screening and counseling for interpersonal and domestic violence. This will benefit women and help ensure that they can receive proper intervention at no added cost. The guidelines were adopted by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) based on recommendations from the Institute of Medicine.
Health care providers are also encouraged to connect and support women who experience interpersonal and domestic violence. During a well-woman visit, providers can conduct screening for domestic violence, provide brief counselling if a woman discloses abuse, and provide referral to local programs and services. It is important to comply with reporting laws in your state and discuss any confidentiality issues with patients.
If you suspect that someone you care about is being abused, speak up! Or if you are a victim and you think your partner is abusive and controlling, make a plan to stay safe. In recognition of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, take a stand to protect yourself. While leaving isn’t easy, just remember you’re not alone and help is available.