Your words can make a difference

As part of our continuing series on domestic violence prevention, the following article is being reprinted with the permission of Nancy Durborow, the author, who is a health projects specialist with the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Did you know that population-based studies indicate that nearly one-third of American women will experience abuse by an intimate partner during their lifetime? Or, that domestic violence is the leading cause of female homicides and injury related deaths during pregnancy? Looking beyond the physical harm, domestic violence is connected to risk factors for chronic health problems. Women with a history of abuse and children raised in violent homes are more likely to experience a wide array of physical and mental health problems, ranging from stomach trouble, smoking, substance abuse and obesity to serious depression.

Health care professionals can play an important role in identifying and preventing domestic violence through routine screening of patients. Screening for abuse with patients that do not have a history of domestic violence is an opportunity for primary prevention that helps to preserve health. Screening can inform patients that domestic violence is an important health care issue and lets them know the health care provider is a safe person to talk to if they or someone they know ever experiences abuse.

Early identification of domestic violence can help victims escape before the violence escalates. It can help them understand that the abuse will get worse and helping them make informed choices. Victims of domestic violence report that the most important factor in interactions with health care providers was having someone to talk to about the abuse.