Posts Tagged ‘intimate partner violence’


International Women’s Day: Remembering Lives Shadowed by Violence

March 8, 2013

Photo by Karen Roush

By Karen Roush, MS, RN, FNP-C, AJN clinical managing editor

She lived in a trailer with her boyfriend and her three children, all under the age of five. He beat her up regularly.

Every few weeks she came in to see me at the health center where I worked as an NP in urgent care. Sometimes she would come in with bruises, but most of the time it was for the less obvious sequelae of violence—unexplained chest pain, palpitations, anxiety attacks, back pain, relentless headaches. There was a policy in urgent care that you couldn’t ask for a particular provider. So she would call to speak to me directly and when the operator put her through she’d know I was on and would come in.

I’m not sure why she came to trust me over the other providers. Maybe she could sense that I understood and didn’t judge her, though I had never told her about my own history of domestic violence. But it was probably because I listened. There was not much else I could do. She had gone to a counselor when I encouraged her to, but that didn’t last long—it was hard for her to find transportation for the 30-minute trip into town. I prescribed SSRIs, and after trying some different ones we found one that worked well for her. I helped her slowly cut back on the anti-anxiety medication she had relied on too heavily for so long.

It was all complicated by chronic neck and back pain. I got her in to see a neurologist, which eventually led to two surgeries that left her in more pain than before and with terrible sciatica. Still she came to me at each step for advice on what to do. The neurologist wants to do another MRI—should she do it? Now he wanted to do another surgical procedure—what did I think? And there was pain management thrown in on top of everything else.

Of course I knew that she wasn’t going to get better as long as she was with her boyfriend. We talked about that a lot. Read the rest of this entry ?


Domestic Violence Screening: Why the Rush to Dismiss It?

August 24, 2012

Karen Roush, MS, RN, FNP-C, AJN clinical managing editor

All rights reserved. Photos by author.

A recent study reported in JAMA, “The Effect of Screening for Partner Violence on Women’s Quality of Life” (abstract only), is being touted in overly simplistic headlines across the Web (the word “debunks” has been getting a lot of use) as further evidence that domestic violence screening doesn’t improve outcomes for women.

Don’t believe it.

The problem doesn’t lie with the researchers or with JAMA; they accurately reported just what they found. The problem lies with how it is being interpreted by others as further proof of the overall ineffectiveness of screening for intimate partner violence (IPV).

What the study actually found was that there was no difference in health outcomes between women who received computerized screening and a resource list and women who just received the resource list or women who received neither.

This is how it worked:

Women in primary care settings who agreed to participate and who were randomized to the screening group were seated in front of a computer and responded to the three questions in the partner violence screening (for example, “have you ever been hit, kicked, punched or otherwise hurt by someone within the past year?”) on the monitor. If they checked yes for any question, the computer played a short video of an IPV advocate who “provided support and information about the hospital-based IPV advocacy program and encouraged [them] to attend.”

All rights reserved.

So what’s wrong with this? True, this particular “screening” and “intervention” didn’t make a difference in the participants’ quality of life. The problem lies in the claims being made that this study proves that IPV screening doesn’t work. The reason this is a problem is not with the screening component. Research supports computer screening to improve disclosure rates—it’s one way to address the time burden that is often cited as a major barrier to screening, as well as the stigma attached to disclosure. So yes, further testing of this possible approach to screening is warranted.

The problem, as I see it, is with the approach taken with women who disclosed abuse. We know that women will disclose abuse and accept help if there is trust, the belief that you actually care about them, a nonjudgmental attitude and consideration for their safety. None of these things are present in this approach. In fact, it is the antithesis. What this approach tells women is that we cannot be bothered to actually talk to you in person—that would take more time, money, and actual empathy than we care to spend on you.

We also have evidence that a well-planned advocacy program with follow-up can work. This “intervention” doesn’t take into consideration the complexity of IPV. There are social, cultural, psychologic, economic, and physical factors involved. I don’t know what this computer-presented advocate says to the women watching. But even if it’s all the right things, she or he is still just an image on the screen.

And expecting women to take on all the emotional and practical challenges that disclosure and seeking help can entail, merely in response to a disembodied image on a screen, is a disservice to the women. Beyond the significant risk of increased violence and even death, there are so many other variables, such as fear of losing their children to protective services, or the difficulties involved in accessing resources when you are without transportation or funds. Read the rest of this entry ?


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