WORKING WITH BATTERED WOMEN: A Handbook for Health Care Professionals


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15

What To Do When A Patient Discloses Abuse


If a patient answers positively when asked if she is experiencing abuse or violence, this needs to be addressed immediately. It is important to:

  • Determine if the woman or her children are in danger.
  • Obtain information concerning the nature of the abuse she is experiencing.
  • Obtain a history of the abuse.

The following questions can be used to obtain the patient's history of the abuse. Remember to focus on the patient and not on completing the form when asking about abuse.

  • When was the last time you were abused? What happened? What did he do/say?
  • How often does the abuse occur?
  • Is the abuse getting worse? More frequent?
  • Has (your partner) ever threatened your life? Has he ever used a weapon?
  • Are you afraid of your partner? Are you afraid for your life or for the lives of your children?

There are four basic things an abused woman needs:

  1. Reassurance that you believe her and that you will help her.
  2. Attention paid to her physical safety in both the short term and long term.
  3. Good documentation of her injuries or symptoms as well as notes placed on her file about any statement she has made which indicates that she has been abused.
  4. Information about abuse and referrals to agencies that provide safe accommodation and counselling support for her and her children.

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