Domestic Violence And How Nurses Can Help Victims

Domestic violence does not discriminate. Anyone of any age, race, education level, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, religion or gender can be a victim OR perpetrator.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence ncadv.org, Domestic violence is the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another. It includes physical violence, sexual violence, psychological violence, and emotional abuse.
Often at the beginning of a relationship, you can’t tell if it will become abusive. Typically, in the early stages of the relationship, the abusive partner is perfect in every way. Signs of controlling behaviors and obsessiveness emerge and intensify as the relationship goes on.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE STATISTICS
According to the CDC,

On average, nearly 20 people/minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. In 1 year, this equates to 10+ million women and men.
1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner.
1 in 7 women and 1 in 25 men have been injured by an intimate partner.
1 in 7 women and 1 in 18 men have been stalked by an intimate partner during their lifetime to the point in which they felt very fearful or believed that they or someone close to them would be harmed or killed.
1 in 10 women have been raped by an intimate partner. Data is unavailable on male victims.

Nurses have an important role to play in assisting victims of abuse/violence in a domestic situation.
Abused victims say that a compassionate inquiry from a caring Nurse helped them disclose their abuse and find the best intervention services. By recognizing the signs of abuse and caring to ask questions, the patient recognizes the Nurse is knowledgeable about domestic violence and validates domestic violence as a legitimate health care issue.
According to a Crisis Prevention article, when assessing a victim, be aware of the following physical signs of injuries that may be related to domestic violence:

Bruising in the chest and abdomen
Multiple injuries
Minor lacerations
Ruptured eardrums
Delay in seeking medical attention and
Patterns of repeated injury

However it is unlikely the victim will be seeking help for a physical injury. More likely they are seeking help for issues such as:

A stress-related illness
Anxiety, panic attacks, stress and/or depression
Drug and alcohol abuse
Chronic headaches, asthma, vague aches and pains
Abdominal pain, chronic diarrhea
Sexual dysfunction, vaginal discharge
Joint pain, muscle pain
Sleeping and eating disorders
Suicide attempts, psychiatric illness or
Gynecological problems, miscarriages, chronic pelvic pain

The victim may also:

Appear nervous, ashamed or evasive
Describe their partner as controlling or prone to anger
Seem uncomfortable or anxious in the presence of their partner
Be accompanied by their partner, who does most of the talking
Give an unconvincing explanation of the injuries
Be recently separated or divorced
Be reluctant to follow advice

After assessing the patient, try not to jump in too fast with suggestions and solutions. Encourage the patient to talk, and then listen carefully. After you have a better understanding of the patient’s current state, you can help by providing appropriate resources for them to find safety. Some of these resources include…
 

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