Domestic violence, also known as intimate partner violence, is serious medical, social, and public health concern (Koziol-McLain, Coates, & Lowenstein, 2001). Women who have experienced physical, psychological or sexual violence can suffer many physical and mental health problems (Taft, et al., 2013). Taking this into consideration, many victims of domestic violence seek medical attention in various healthcare settings. Victims of domestic violence customarily seek medical attention in emergency departments, hospital clinics, medical offices, prenatal clinics, family planning facilities, and other clinical settings (Koziol-McLain, Coates, & Lowenstein, 2001). The argument ensues that victims of domestic violence tend to seek help in these various healthcare settings therefore, healthcare professionals should routinely ask all women if they have experienced violence while in the healthcare facility (Taft, et al., 2013). However, some debate that there is not sufficient evidence proving that domestic violence screening helps prevent future abuse. Without hard evidence, doctors question whether screening their patients for domestic violence will help to end the abuse (Singh, 2014).
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), screening for domestic violence can help identify current or past abusive and traumatic experiences, can help to prevent abuse in the future, minimize disability, and can also lead to a better health status. The World Health Organization (WHO) provide many tools, guidelines, and recommendations for screening victims of domestic violence (WHO, 2013).
Health care providers are in a distinctive position to become involved and connect with victims of domestic violence while providing support (Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2013). Over a decade ago domestic violence was declared a national epidemic and now many health professionals are required to screen for domestic violence in accordance with national health policies (O’Doherty, et al., 2014).
The Department of Health and Human Services have implemented certain guidelines for women’s preventive health services which will help to make sure that women can receive, without cost-sharing, a complete set of suggested preventive health services. With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, many insurance plans are required to offer preventive health services which include screening and counseling for domestic violence (HHS, 2013).
A study by Koziol-McLain, Coates, and Lowenstein (2001) found that a short violence screen could identify in a subset of women who are at high risk for the different forms of domestic violence (i.e., verbal, physical, and sexual partner abuse) the likelihood they would experience abuse four months after their study. In similar research conducted by Houry et al. (2004), they examined the predictive validity of a three-question domestic violence screen used in an emergency department population. Their research found that women who screened positive for domestic violence were 11 times more likely to encounter violence from a current or past partner over a four month period after they had been screened.
The article (Singh, 2014) published on npr.org highlights the analysis written by O’Doherty et al. (2014) which states that screening victims for domestic violence doesn’t appear to cause them any harm in the short term and also increases identification of domestic violence it doesn’t however, appear that in the long term, screening provides increases in effective referral to agencies that support victims. This study provides us with a direction for future studies and trials that should be conducted in order to take a step in the right direction. Mainly, to provide healthcare professionals and policy makers with evidence that by screening for domestic violence, violence will decrease and women’s wellbeing will increase (O’Doherty, et al., 2014).
Davila, Y. R. (2005). Teaching nursing students to assess and intervene for domestic violence. International Journal of Nursing Education Scholarship, 2, 1-11.
Houry, D., Feldhaus, K., Peery, B., Abbott, J., Lowenstein, S. R., al-Bataa-de-Montero, S., & Levine, S. (2004). A positive domestic violence screen predicts future domestic violence. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 19, 955-966.
Koziol-McLain, J., Coates, C. J., & Lowenstein, S. R. (2001). Predictive validity of a screen for partner violence against women. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 21, 93-100.
O’Doherty, L. J., Taft, A., Hegarty, K., Ramsay, J., Davidson, L. L., & Feder, G. (2014). Screenign women for intimate partner violence in healthcare settings: Abridged Cochrane systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ, 348. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g2913
Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2013). Screening and counseling fact sheet. Retrieved from http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/screening-counseling-fact-sheet.html?from=AtoZ
Singh, M. (2014, May 14). Doctors debate whether screening for domestic abuse helps stop it. Retrieved from NPR: http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/05/14/312152420/doctors-debate-whether-screening-for-domestic-abuse-helps-stop-it
Taft, A., O’Doherty, L., Hegarty, K., Ramsay, J., Davidson, L., & Feder, G. (2013). Screening women for intimate partner violence in healthcare settings. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews(4). doi:10.1002/14651858.CD007007.pub2.
World Health Organization. (2013). Responding to intimate partner violence and sexual violence against women: WHO clinical and policy guidlines. WHO. Retrieved from http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/85240/1/9789241548595_eng.pdf?ua=1