WORKING WITH BATTERED WOMEN: A Handbook for Health Care Professionals


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How to Help Battered Women


What can you as health care providers do to make a positive difference in the lives of abused women and thereby fulfil you partnership role? Essentially there are five aspects of care that you can provide for women who have been abused and who come to you for help. They are:

You may be concerned that implementing procedures and protocols around these five aspects of care for abused women will be difficult because of time constraints. Be assured that this has proven not to be the case in hospitals and offices where these practices have been implemented. It is not your responsibility to solve all the problems of a woman's life. It is your responsibility to develop meaningful intervention procedures that meet the immediate needs of an abused woman presenting to you. Appropriate medical intervention is crucial for the one in four women who will have been assaulted by their marital partners. A doctor or nurse may be the one and only professional an abused woman has contact with. Nurses and physicians caring for a woman throughout her pregnancy will be in the unique position of having regular and continuous contact with her over an extended period of time.

It is important that medical professionals be aware of possible indicators of abuse and follow up their suspicions by questioning their patients about whether or not they are experiencing violence at the hands of their marital partner. Recent research has found that women are in fact more likely to reveal abuse when asked by their primary health care giver. You have an important role to play in uncovering abuse. And once the abuse has been identified, you can then treat not only the symptoms but give the information and make the referrals to appropriate emergency and counselling services in the hope of ending future violence. Begin setting up your own systems immediately. A coordinated approach to violence against women can make a difference.

Having domestic violence procedures and protocols in place for each aspect of care is the key to consistent and effective intervention—intervention that is based on clear principles and not on erroneous myths about battering.


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