In a victim's words:
"The doctor's office is a good place to go because it's neutral and it's confidential. It's not like telling your husband you're going to the police department."
Healthcare and Domestic Violence
Most people are seen at some point by a health care provider - a nurse, family doctor, chiropractor, physician's assistant, nurse practitioner, obstetrician, or other health care provider. Medical visits can provide a critical opportunity for early detection, education, referrals and even prevention of abuse.
The direct medical and mental health-related costs of rape, physical assault, stalking, and homicide by intimate partners total nearly $4.1 billion each year, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
(Costs of Intimate Partner Violence Against Women in the United States, US Centers for Disease Control. Report released April 28, 2003)
Healthcare Services Connect Victims with Help
Screening during medical visits (asking questions of all women clients in order to find those victimized by a partner or family member) is an effective way to raise awareness and connect victims with information and services. More information from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on effective screening for domestic violence.
Health care providers can break the deadly cycle of domestic violence by screening patients, identifying domestic violence-related injuries and ailments, documenting in the medical record, providing services and referring patients who are being abused by their intimate partners or family members to domestic violence programs and other services.
Domestic Violence Is A Public Health Problem
Even though many people think of domestic violence as happening in private, domestic violence is a public health problem.
- Injury: Domestic violence accounts for a significant proportion of injuries and Emergency Department visits for women.
- Murder: As many as two-thirds of all pregnant women who are murdered are killed by their intimate partners
- Chronic health problems: Abused women can be at increased risk of chronic pain, depression, anxiety and alcohol and substance abuse, gynecological problems, sexually transmitted diseases, and gastrointestinal problems. Domestic violence victims can have problems taking their medication correctly and getting to appointments when they have partners who interfere with their medical care.
- Children: Children of abused caregivers frequently have anxiety, depression, withdrawal, and sleep disorders attention problems.
PCADV Works to Assist Providers
- PCADV's member programs work in every county to provide domestic violence victims and families with emergency shelter, housing options and other programs to help victims gain stability and independence.
- PCADV's medical advocate provides technical assistance and training to health care providers helping domestic violence victims and their families. Call 1-800-932-4632.
- PCADV tracks legislation around health care issues that affect abuse victims and their families.
- PCADV provides a Domestic Violence Health Care Provider Training Evaluation Toolkit to help providers improve staff training on the screening, identification, and response to victims of domestic violence.
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If you fear for your immediate safety, call 9-1-1 or your local police.
Contact the domestic violence program in your area for free and confidential help.
Other victim programs are available to help you and your family.
Any attorney helping a domestic violence victim may contact the PCADV legal department at 888-235-3425 for information on law and legal procedures. (This is not a helpline for victims.)
The information provided on this website is intended for informational purposes only. The information provided under this topic is not legal advice, does not create an attorney-client relationship, and is not a substitute for contacting an experienced attorney. Read our full legal disclaimer.
- Intimate Partner Violence and Healthy People 2010 Fact Sheet124.13 K | 2/27/2013
- Screening Women for Domestic Violence Could Help Prevent Abuse: Review shows benefits of routine checks at clinics, in doctors' offices
- The National Health Resource Center on Domestic Violence
- The National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma and Mental Health
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control
- Nursing Network on Violence Against Women International
- Pennsylvania Medical Society Domestic Violence Resources
- Health Care Response Act