The National Network to End Domestic Violence‘s Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Fact Sheet states that approximately 37% of women seeking injury-related treatment in hospital emergency rooms were there because of injuries inflicted by a current or former spouse/partner. Approximately 40-50% of female victims are physically injured when assaulted by their intimate partner, according to The DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence. This percentage accounts for more than 200,000 visits to the hospital emergency room each year.
Emergency room staff have a unique opportunity to connect domestic violence survivors to immediate crisis services. A study from the University of Pennsylvania found that nearly 80 percent of women who reported domestic assaults to the police visited an emergency room at least once during the four years after their assault, and “most of those sought ED care frequently – an average of seven times each.”
By giving discussing with survivors the cause of their injuries and helping them learn more about the nature of domestic abuse, doctors and nurses are able to provide an opportunity for survivors to discuss intimate partner violence, possibly for the first time. According to Futures Without Violence, of the 44% of domestic violence survivors who spoke with someone about their abuse, 37% spoke specifically with their health care provider. They also noted that “in four different studies of survivors of abuse, 70 percent to 81 percent of the patients studied reported that they would like their healthcare providers to ask them privately about intimate partner violence.”
Despite this, only 28 percent of the patients in the aforementioned University of Pennsylvania study were ever identified as victims of abuse. The potential consequences of leaving the issue un-adressed are dire: according to The American College of Emergency Physicians, “nearly half (44%) of women murdered by their intimate partner had visited an emergency department within two years of the homicide.”
Locally, doctors and nurses from MedStar Washington Hospital Center’s Emergency Room have worked with DC SAFE advocates to develop a screening tool that nurses can use to start a productive conversation with potential victims of family and intimate partner violence.
Learn more about SAFE’s work with Emergency Departments in DC here.