Introduction

Introduction

Domestic abuse is a leading cause of physical injury and mental ill health amongst women in this country. Health care professionals have a major role to play in identifying victims of domestic abuse as it is the first step towards ensuring appropriate care.

  • Survivors of domestic abuse are likely to be in more regular contact with healthcare professionals than other service providers. The increased likelihood of contact means there is likely to be more opportunities for Healthcare professionals to identify it as an issue and offer support.
  • 35% of women attending A&E have experienced domestic abuse and a 1997 study found that only 6% of women were assessed for violence .
  • 1 in 9 women experience domestic abuse where medical attention is needed
  • Domestic abuse is five times more prevalent than medical case notes indicate
  • Without appropriate intervention, violence usually continues and often escalates in frequency and severity
  • By the time the woman's injuries are visible, violence may be a long-established pattern.

Despite this evidence some health professionals have been reluctant to engage with patients around domestic violence. According to the BMA reasons include doctors' fears or experiences of exploring the issues of domestic violence; lack of knowledge of community resources; fear of offending the woman and jeopardising the doctor-patient relationship; lack of time; lack of training; lack of control; infrequent patient visits; unresponsiveness of patients to questions; feeling powerless; not being able to fix the situation.