The intentional violent or controlling behavior by a person who is currently, or was previously, in an intimate relationship with the survivor. It encompasses physical injury as well as intimidation, humiliation, fear, financial, emotional or sexual injury (MNA Domestic Violence Task Force, 1993).
Safety in the home and workplace is being increasingly recognized as a public health concern. Health care workers are frequently involved with patients who have been or are experiencing domestic violence (DV). Domestic violence is likely to increase in frequency and severity over time, and the risk is greatest with a decision to leave the abusive situation.
Health care workers may also be affected by DV's existence among family members and friends, or by witnesses to violent episodes which spill over into the workplace with colleagues or patients. In addition, as a mostly female workforce, they themselves may be victimized by the problem. Thirty-eight% of women murdered by partners in 1998 were health care workers.
Domestic violence occurs in:
Indicators of DV include but are not limited to:
Abuser behaviors may include:
Screening questions for DV include:
Helpful behaviors include:
In Massachusetts, no law mandates reporting domestic violence. A victim has the right to decline to report an incident. A health care worker can assist the DV victim to report.
However, reporting is mandated under Massachusetts law when the victim is a minor, an elder, or disabled, or when there are stab wounds or gunshots, or burn injuries over 5% of the body. Other states laws may differ.
Health care workers can be of great assistance to the DV survivor through verbatim recording of statements regarding threats or fear (assault) and photographic or body-map documentation of injuries (battery) that can be introduced in court to support allegations of DV. Felony charges can be sought by the police or by the survivor.
Survivors of DV may seek emergency, temporary or permanent restraining orders against the abuser through Superior, Probate, Family, District or Municipal Courts. These range from orders to refrain from further abuse, to avoid any contact with the survivor, to provide financial support or funding for losses suffered, or to give up custody of children. DV survivors need to be aware that restraining orders can be ignored, and have led to escalation of violence and even death.
No one deserves to be abused. Many survivors of DV need help in regaining their sense of self-worth. Mental health providers in community health centers and medical facilities can be helpful in promoting self-esteem and in assisting the victim to assess risk and develop a long-term safety plan.
There are two types of shelters for survivors of domestic violence: homeless residences for those who do not wish to return to their homes but lack the resources to obtain another residence, and battered women's shelters which are anonymous residences for those fearing reprisal. Often it is safer to use a geographically distant residence. Child care when leaving the home complicates shelter issues. Shelters differ on accepting children (particularly male teenage children) or pets.
Health care workers also have a responsibility to influence societal attitudes toward domestic violence. As PTA members, church congregants, community participants or leaders, social club members and voters, they can be proactive in supporting social, economic or political changes to assist DV survivors in moving beyond their present situation.
MNA's Domestic Violence Task Force has a Speakers' Bureau available for professional or community presentations on DV.
They may be contacted at 781.821.4625.
Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) are the most common source of workplace assistance for counseling and referral to resources. Occupational health nurses may also be of assistance. Some employers have been proactive in direct provision for worker safety such as security pagers, compliance with restraining orders, confidentiality efforts, camera surveillance, and staggered working hours.
Employers Against Domestic Violence (617.348.4970) is a Massachusetts group which educates employers, helps by critiquing workplace DV policies and identifies best practices. Employees might suggest that their employer ask them for assistance. Many health care agencies have domestic violence committees who have developed policies about DV for both patients and employees.
Federal, State and Local Agencies
|National 24-hr hotline||800.799.SAFE
|MA State-wide 24-hr hotline||800.992.2600|
|MA Battered Women's Coalition||617.661.7203|
|Network for Battered Lesbians & Bisexual Women||617.423.7233|
|Gay Men Against Domestic Violence||800.832.1901|
|Brockton Family and Community Resources||508.583.5200|
|New England Learning Center for Women in Transition (Athol)||888.249.0806|
|Boston||Asian Task Force Against Domestic Violence||617.338.2355|
|Boston||Casa Myrna Vasquez||800.992.2600|
|Jamaica Plain||Elizabeth Stone House||617.522.3417|
|Jamaica Plain||F.I.N.E.X. House||617.288.1054|
|Lawrence||Women's Resource Center||800.400.4700|
|Malden||Services Against Family Violence||781.324.2221|
|Newburyport||Women's Crisis Center||978.465.2155|
|Salem||Help for Abused Women and Children||508.744.6841|
|Framingham||Women's Protective Service||508.626.8686|
|Newton||Second Step Inc.||617.965.3999|
|Waltham||Support for Battered Women||800.899.4000|
|Southern Worcester County||New Hope||800.323.4673|
|Leominster||Battered Women's Resources||877.342.9355|
|Pittsfield||Elizabeth Freeman Center||413.443.0089|
|Brockton||Woman's Place Crisis Center||508.588.2041|
|Fall River||S STAR||508.675.0087|
|Fall River||Our Sisters' Place||508.677.0224|
|New Bedford||The New Bedford Women's Center||888.839.6634|
|Cape Cod & Islands:|
|Plymouth||South Shore Women's Center||508.746.2664|
|North Falmouth||The Cape Cod Center for Women||508.564.7233|
|Nantucket||A Safe Place||508.228.2111|