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Don't forget to register to become an Ally in Healing.

As an Ally, you will be a leader in our community, advocating for domestic and sexual violence victims, armed with education materials to inform your staff and co-workers of ways to not only recognize victims, but to help them, too.

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Victims and their medical needs

Domestic violence can affect a victim's health in many ways. The longer the violence goes on, the more serious the effects. 

Many victims suffer physical injuries. Some are minor like cuts, scratches, bruises and welts. Some are more severe and can cause death or disability. These include broken bones, internal bleeding and head trauma.

Not all injuries are physical. Domestic violence can also cause emotional harm. Victims may have trauma symptoms, including flashbacks, panic attacks and trouble sleeping. The anger and stress victims feel may lead to eating disorders and depression. Some victims even think about, or commit, suicide.

Medical professionals

There is a growing number of health providers and anti-abuse agencies around the country collaborating to identify victims and get them help. More doctors now screen their patients for signs of abuse. Education and counseling for people experiencing violence is also more widely available in clinics and hospitals.

Estimates show that less than 15% of victims seek medical treatment for their injuries, yet they seek medical attention for symptoms directly and indirectly relating to the abuse. To help treat and save these silent victims, physicians need to make active screening, identifying abuse patients, and distributing safety information part of their medical routine.

Texas Law (Section 91.003 of the Family Code) requires physicians to provide safety and shelter information to patients with injuries believed to be caused by violence in the family and to document giving these materials in the patient's medical record. In addition, as part of their duty to provide safety information, physicians can offer information on legal resources, such as emergency protection orders, to patients. 

What health care workers can do to help victims:

  1. Dig deeper. Ask your patients if they have ever experienced domestic or sexual violence.
  2. Remember, you may be the only person the victim is able to see without the abuser present.
  3. Post Hope Alliance's (or a closer resource center) information in bathrooms and exam rooms.
  4. Invite Hope Alliance to speak to your clinic and facilitate group discussions.
  5. Participate in Sexual Assault Awareness Month (April) and Domestic Violence Awareness Month (October).
  6. Practice trauma-informed care with your patients.

Trauma-informed Care

Trauma-informed care acknowledges the need to understand a patient’s life experiences in order to deliver effective care and has the potential to improve patient engagement, treatment adherence, health outcomes, and provider and staff wellness.

Taking a trauma-informed care approach helps victims of domestic and sexual violence feel safe, in control and capable of going to a doctor's appointment to receive the treatment he or she needs.

Key Ingredients for Creating a Trauma-Informed Approach to Care

Organizational Approach:

  • Leading and communicating about the transformation
    process
  • Engaging patients in organizational planning
  • Training clinical as well as non-clinical staff members
  • Creating a safe environment
  • Preventing secondary traumatic stress in staff
  • Hiring a trauma-informed workforce

Clinical Approach:

  • Involving patients in the treatment process
  • Training staff in trauma-specific treatment
    approaches
  • Screening for trauma
  • Engaging referral sources and partnering organizations
Female doctor with clipboard and her team smiling at camera

Creating a Safe Environment

Feeling physically, socially, or emotionally unsafe may cause extreme anxiety in a person who has experienced trauma, potentially causing re-traumatization. Therefore, creating a safe environment is fundamental to successfully engaging patients in their care.

Smiling doctor looking at a patient on a wheelchair in hospital hallway

Examples of creating a safe environment include:

Physical Environment

  • Keeping parking lots, common areas, bathrooms, entrances, and exits well lit
  •  Ensuring that people are not allowed to smoke, loiter, or congregate outside entrances and exits
  • Monitoring who is coming in and out of the building
  • Positioning security personnel inside and outside of the building
  • Keeping noise levels in waiting rooms low
  • Using welcoming language on all signage
  • Making sure patients have clear access to the door in exam rooms and can easily exit if desired

Social-Emotional Environment

  • Welcoming patients and ensuring that they feel
    respected and supported
  • Ensuring staff maintain healthy interpersonal
    boundaries and can manage conflict appropriately
  • Keeping consistent schedules and procedures
  • Offering sufficient notice and preparation when
    changes are necessary
  • Maintaining communication that is consistent, open,
    respectful, and compassionate
  •  Being aware of how an individual’s culture affects how
    they perceive trauma, safety, and privacy
Young smiling woman meeting the doctor at the hospital for a consultation, they are shaking hands

Downloadable handouts

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