WORKING WITH BATTERED WOMEN: A Handbook for Health Care Professionals


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Information Means Choices


Because leaving is so difficult, it is most often not a one-time event. It is a process. It is normal for an abused woman to leave and return many times. Each time she leaves is a test:

  • will he stalk me and hurt or kill me (or my family) like he promised?
  • will he change and get counselling like he promised?
  • can I make it on my own? will I be able to get groceries, with three kids under five and no car, in the middle of winter?

The stage of the process she is in when you see her will determine her response to your assistance. But with information comes choice. Perhaps she just needs to know this happens to other women. Perhaps she just needs to know where to go for help. You can provide her with that information.

There has been reluctance on the part of health care providers to develop intervention procedures and protocols around domestic violence. This reluctance stems in large part from the earliest tradition that this is a private matter between a husband and his wife, and from a more recent belief that it is not a health care issue but rather a social problem that is the responsibility of social service agencies and community groups. But the statistics (see Appendix C) tell us that domestic violence is a health care issue. The ongoing stress of living in an abusive situation, as well as the physical and emotional consequences of violence, have many serious health ramifications. Helping women who are abused requires a partnership between the health care professions, social services, justice services and community groups. Each of these partners must develop meaningful intervention procedures and protocols that meet the needs of abused women.

In the late 1980's, a Saskatchewan Inter-Hospital Committee on Domestic Violence developed a booklet entitled "Spousal Abuse: Information and Protocol for Hospitals". The booklet contained copies of Adult Concern Forms and a model protocol. The Adult Concern Forms provided a specific format for documenting on the patient's medical file confirmed and suspected cases of battering. The "Model Protocol" was intended to provide hospitals or medical facilities with a step by step process to follow in order to deal with suspected or confirmed cases of the abuse of women by their partners. The protocol dealt with Identification, Registration, Assessment Intervention, Follow-up and Resources. Although this booklet is out of print, the Saskatchewan Department of Health had distributed at least one copy of this booklet to each hospital, and Saskatchewan Health Districts should since have each worked out their own protocols around this issue.


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