Treating Domestic Violence As A Medical Problem

By Anna Gorman
Kaiser Health News

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) A growing number of health providers and anti-abuse agencies around the country are collaborating to identify victims and get them help.

Kaiser Health News

Fanny Ortiz, a mother of five who lives just east of downtown Los Angeles, spent nearly a decade married to a man who controlled her and frequently threatened her.

Then, she said, his abuse escalated. “He would physically hit me in the face, throw me on the wall,” she recalled.

Ortiz, 43, eventually left the marriage, taking her children with her.

A few years later, she learned that the East Los Angeles Women’s Center offered domestic violence services at the Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, near her home.

Now she goes to the hospital campus for weekly therapy sessions, which she said have helped stop her suicidal thoughts.

“I was afraid to talk,” Ortiz said. “Now I am more open to talk about things that I was holding in.”

Nearly 1 in 4 women have experienced serious physical violence at the hands of a partner. They often end up in the emergency room or the doctor’s office. But they don’t typically volunteer the reason for their injuries, and doctors don’t always ask about abuse in the home. That failure of communication means the patients may miss out on the help they need.

Yet a growing number of health providers and anti-abuse agencies in California and around the country are collaborating to identify victims and get them help.

More doctors now screen their patients for signs of abuse and more agencies place victims’ advocates inside health centers. Education and counseling for people experiencing violence is also more widely available in clinics and hospitals.

About four years ago, the East Los Angeles Women’s Center opened offices on the campus of L.A. County-USC, a busy public hospital. Since then, center staff members have trained more than 2,500 doctors, nurses, social workers and others to identify victims of domestic violence. They also respond quickly to calls from the medical center’s emergency room, inpatient hospital and outpatient facilities to help patients in crisis.

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