WORKING WITH BATTERED WOMEN: A Handbook for Health Care Professionals


Table of Contents


18

Indicators of Abuse


Identification of a woman as battered is often made difficult by a woman's hesitancy to discuss the issue of abuse or the woman's outright denial of abuse even when presenting with some very suspicious injuries. Medical personnel therefore may often have to rely on factors other than self-identification in identifying a woman as the victim of abuse. The following lists are not exhaustive and serve as guidelines only. Through your own experiences, you may have identified some indicators not included on our list that you may wish to share with your peers.

Behavioral/Psychological Indicators

1. In Emergency Room or Walk-in Clinics:

  • The woman may readily offer a suspiciously detailed explanation of how her injuries occurred even before she is asked.
  • The woman's account of how she was injured may be inconsistent with her physical injuries.
  • The woman may display a high level of fear or apprehension, she may avoid eye contact (but remember, this could be cultural), she may turn away from the individual she is speaking with, or display a reluctance to be examined.
  • If her husband or partner is present or nearby, she may appear to be guarded in his presence or afraid of him. This fear is most often displayed by the woman constantly glancing at her partner.
  • If the partner is present he may answer questions that are directed at the woman.
  • The woman may not have any identification because her partner has taken it or has taken her purse.

2. In Doctor's Offices/Clinics:

  • There may be an inappropriate and unexplained delay in seeking medical attention.
  • The woman may speak "vaguely" about problems with her partner. She may say that he is very jealous, impulsive, drinks, abuses drugs, or is depressed. She may refer to the fact that they have "fights".
  • The woman may often need her glasses replaced, as they are often broken by her partner during an abusive incident, sometimes on purpose.
  • If the woman is attending because of a workplace referral, her supervisor or colleague may report increased use of sick leave (especially on Mondays), lowered initiative, loss of concentration, deterioration in personal grooming, withdrawn or emotional behaviour, and/or increased error or accident rate.

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