California medical professionals respond to domestic violence

Who is in the best position to really identify the victims of domestic violence and help them? It isn't a social worker or a police officer. It's probably a doctor.

Experts believe that domestic violence will factor into the lives of almost 1 out of every 4 women. Many of those women will eventually seek medical care for injuries -- which means that doctors are uniquely in a position to address the issue.

If a doctor doesn't do that, a golden opportunity to get the victim the help that she needs to get out of the situation could be lost. The victims may never reach out for help otherwise -- particularly not to the police.

California medical providers and agencies that advocate against domestic violence are working together to make sure that doesn't happen. Doctors are being aggressively encouraged to screen patients for evidence of domestic violence, and advocates who can help those victims are being kept on hand at clinics, hospitals and other facilities. Hospitals and clinics are also beginning to offer counseling programs and education for victims.

In addition, one women's center is opening a 10-bed shelter right inside the Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, a large public hospital. That helps solve a major problem: trying to figure out where to send a victim who shows signs of abuse when you can't send her home and she has nowhere else to go. Around a third of the victims seen in area shelters are homeless or only able to return to the homes where the violence occurred.

The additional incentives, cooperative programs and support from everyone from insurance agencies to hospital management has encouraged doctors and others to reach out to more victims and ask questions where they previously would have remained silent out of fear that they couldn't offer a better solution.

In addition to medical services and social services, there are legal means to get protection when you're a victim of domestic violence.

Source: California Healthline, "Treating Domestic Violence As A Medical Problem," Anna Gorman, Jan. 29, 2018

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