WORKING WITH BATTERED WOMEN: A Handbook for Health Care Professionals


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Difficult Situations


There are a number of situations in which it may be difficult to ask about domestic violence.

  • Intoxicated patients: Minimize talk. Provide support and allow the patient time to recover sobriety before attempting to discuss the issue of domestic violence. Then provide assessment and referral as usual.

  • Hostile/abusive patients: Acknowledge the patient's anger. Offer support and services, but do not insist or pressure the patient.

  • Patients who cannot communicate due to language barriers: Do not use relatives, children or the abuser as interpreters. If an interpreter is obtained, determine that the patient is not acquainted with the translator. If possible obtain a translator from an agency dealing with the ethnocultural community.

  • Patients who are seriously ill or hallucinating: Provide support and allow the patient's condition to stabilize before exploring the issue of domestic violence.

  • Patients who deny they have been battered: Because of the difficulties a woman may have in leaving an abusive relationship, she may be hesitant to self-identify and may even deny abuse has occurred. Explain that she can come back for further assistance if she ever finds herself in such a situation. Give her the referral and resource information, telling her you always give it out to everyone.

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