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Domestic Violence Awareness Month 2022
- What are some things you think of when you hear domestic violence?
- Have you ever taken care of a patient who was experiencing violence?
- Domestic violence is one of the most common situations affecting people nationwide. Domestic Violence Awareness Month brings recognition to victims of domestic violence, aims to hold abusers accountable, and educates people like healthcare providers, on how to identify abuse, formulate safety plans, and lead others to support resources.
MPH, MSN, WHNP-BC
Domestic Violence Awareness Month
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
The phrase domestic violence conjures up several different images and notions for people. Synonyms for domestic violence include intimate partner violence, domestic abuse, and interpersonal coercion.
According to the United Nations, domestic violence “can be defined as a pattern of behavior in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner. Abuse is physical, sexual, emotional, economic or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person.”
What is Domestic Violence
When people hear the term domestic violence or any similar phrase, they might think of physical violence, an unstable relationship, or people who choose to be stuck in harmful situations. The truth is that domestic violence is rarely only physical and often a result of social acceptance of unhealthy social behaviors.
Per the UN’s definition and scientific studies, domestic violence is about non-consensual and coercive power and control in each dynamic.
Instances of violence can occur among dating couples, married people, parents and children, and more. Anyone can experience domestic violence, regardless of age, gender, religion, race, or other sociodemographic identity.
Approximately 10 million people every year experience domestic violence in the United States. Almost every nurse will assess or treat a patient who has experienced domestic violence at some point in their career.
Due to its high prevalence, there is a high chance that most providers will evaluate and treat a victim of domestic violence at some point. The importance of ongoing education and global awareness cannot be understated. Domestic Violence Awareness Month aims to close this gap.
Why Does Domestic Violence Awareness Matter?
Domestic violence awareness month has existed since 1987 and made significant strides in health care research and communal awareness. Even though public awareness of domestic violence has increased over the past few decades, there is still much work needs to be done to address domestic violence concerns in health care settings.
Unfortunately, domestic violence screening and trauma-informed care are not the norm in nursing. Often, nurses might feel uncomfortable with domestic violence screening or unaware of providing trauma-informed care. Legislation, charting woes, and administrative concerns are among common reasons for domestic violence screening inadequacies in nursing.
In addition, patients might not feel comfortable disclosing instances of violence to health care professionals. Shame, stigma, safety, and fear of judgment are very real concerns for people when talking about anything related to domestic violence.
We live in a society where violence, especially for socially marginalized populations, is still heavily stigmatized. Talking to a nurse about domestic violence can be very sensitive and deeply personal.
When providing care to patients, especially regarding domestic violence, a non-judgmental space is essential. Otherwise, patients could be left not receiving the health they need, which could lead to untested and untreated STIs, recurrent physical injuries, prolonged psychological trauma, unintended pregnancy, chronic stress, sexual coercion, and more health concerns.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, domestic violence rates have increased. The time for nurses to be aware of their roles in domestic violence awareness is now.
What Is the Nursing Role in Domestic Violence Awareness?
It is important for health care professionals to ask themselves if they are comfortable performing a domestic violence screening or providing trauma-informed care.
Talking about violence, abuse, or trauma can be a challenge. Nurses play a critical role in identifying patients in domestic violence situations since they often provide extensive education and assessment with patients.
Domestic violence is to be taken seriously always. Due to the complexity of domestic violence and its cyclical nature, a lot of states require nurses to take specific continuing education courses on domestic violence like Kentucky, Florida, and Massachusetts.
These courses aim to increase domestic violence awareness and educate nurses on abuser patterns, reporting, and resources for helping patients.
Ways for nurses to take an active role in domestic violence awareness include:
- Providing educational materials in discrete locations, such as bathrooms
- Addressing any concerns patients have about their health
- Assessing patients in a private space
- Offering routine domestic violence screening
- Discussing with nursing management on any efforts at the workplace for both patients and staff to provide domestic violence screening services and trauma-informed care
- Working with social services to establish continuity in a patient’s plan of care
Some evidence-based organizations that can provide you with the latest information and patient education tools on domestic violence awareness and trauma-informed care include:
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
- U.S. Office on Women’s Health
- National Sexual Violence Resource Center
- Futures Without Violence
The Bottom Line on Domestic Violence Awareness Month
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
It is crucial for nurses to recognize that there are several reasons why someone would not want to discuss domestic violence concerns. There are people who have had negative experiences with the health care system and people who have safety concerns who might not feel comfortable discussing instances of violence.
By providing that safer space and having a non-judgmental approach, you can work to establish trust between yourself and the patient and provide as much domestic violence screening and information as possible.
If you are interested in learning more about domestic violence, trauma-informed care, and more, I would encourage you to explore the International Association of Forensic Nurses the American Nurses Association.
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