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Healthcare providers and Domestic Violence

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

I've been involved with Domestic Violence Awareness Month for quite a while. I was a victim of domestic violence at the hands of my oldest daughter's father what feels like a lifetime ago. Even though it was about 12 years ago, I have never forgotten that awful feeling of both never wanting anyone to find out the predicament I was in and also desperately wishing someone would discover my secret and help me out. After I was able to leave I did an internship with my local women's shelter. I am committed to ending domestic violence.

With that in mind and considering that the childbearing year is a particularly vulnerable time for victims I've put together a few links specifically for health care providers. These address both screening and prevention.

First up all health care providers should be aware of the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Victims, perpetrators and professionals can all make use of the hotline for information, support and referrals to local programs.

Health care providers can not only use the hotline they can easily post it in private areas such as the restrooms, exam rooms or other areas.

Violence against women often begins or escalates during pregnancy so routine screening as a part of prenatal care may be something you would like to integrate into your practice. If a patient does disclose an incident of domestic violence to you the way you document it can either help or hurt her if she goes to court. Find out about best practices in documentation. You will also want to know where you can refer her locally.

Finally there is a wealth of pamphlets and brochures you can make available to patients and their partners.

This page from the National Online Resource Center on Violence Against Women has links to many more tools for a wide range of healthcare settings.

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