Why You Can Talk to Your ObGyn
About Domestic Violence and
How They Can Help
Every year, women visit their ObGyn for many different reasons. Annual well woman exams, counseling for family planning, pregnancy and unexpected medical treatment needs, to name a few. While sitting in the office and filling out paperwork, you may have noticed a newer section asking about how you are treated in your relationship. The Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) screening is completed across all Women’s Health Connecticut offices and has quickly been validated as an important part of your visit.
Why include IPV screening?
Nationally, 1 in 4 women have experienced severe physical violence in their lifetime and 1 in 5 teen girls have said they have been in a relationship where their partner has threatened violence or self-harm if a break up was to occur. In Connecticut specifically, 12 to 14 women die in the State every year to IPV. To provide advocacy for support, Women’s Health Connecticut has partnered with the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CCADV) to receive training related to victim response to IPV and instituted a policy that every practice screen and connect patients in need with assistance with the goal in mind to keep our patients safe, healthy and well. New providers, clinical and support staff receive training through the Women’s Health CT training portal that is accessible at any time. Trainings provide the attendees the ability to offer victim safety, advocacy for their patients, coordination of services and resources to domestic violence victims and serve as leaders in the health care field so that patients know that their offices are a safe-haven and resource for assistance.
I want to report, what happens now?
During your exam, your provider will likely review the IPV screening section and may ask about your responses. You have the option to report instances of violence or threatened violence within the screening, anytime your provider asks (even if you did not write it down), or if you want to talk about it at any time during your appointment. It is not easy to come forward and share your experience, but your provider may ask and is always prepared to listen because they want you to know that they can provide help. Some of the ways include:
- Acknowledgement – we want you to know that you are not alone. IPV affects everyone and crosses all socioeconomic, education and gender boundaries. Your appointment is a safe space that your provider will listen to your concerns and experiences without judgment or shame.
- Reporting – in the US, a woman is abused every 9 seconds. If you report instances of violence, your provider can keep your report confidential at your discretion. However, in cases that a weapon has been a part of the assault, or a child is involved, your provider has a responsibility to report the incident to authorities.
- Resources – if you express the need for help, our providers have the training and ability to connect you with resources for support. All offices have a list of shelters and a number listed by CCADV that will provide immediate and safe assistance to you. If you are not ready, you can return at a safe time that you are able to seek help, with or without an appointment.
Why talk to my provider?
Women’s Health Connecticut has taken on training and screening because we care about our patients and community. We are proud participants in the CCADV Health Professional Outreach Project to bolster IPV training across the Connecticut healthcare system. 38,000 victims in Connecticut have been served between July 2017 and June 2018 by CCADV. Women’s Comprehensive Health Care provider Tracy Brennan, MD also serves as the Medical Director of Patient Engagement for Women’s Health Connecticut and shares that she is, “passionate about screening each and every patient for IPV at least yearly. This practice has been life altering for me – it tells my patients that I am willing to speak about ANYTHING. My role is to encourage patients to allow me to place a call to an advocate before they leave the office so that someone is involved in their life who knows how to keep them safe. I make it clear that our office can be used as a safe place to call an advocate at any time.” The next time you are sitting with your provider, you may notice a button on their coat that says, “Is someone is hurting you? Talk to me.” We are here for you and we want to help.
Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Inc. is a membership organization made up of the state's 18 domestic violence agencies. Help is available to victims 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you, or someone you know needs immediate support, call the statewide free and confidential hotlines at 888-774-2900 (English) or 844-831-9200 (Español) to be connected to your local domestic violence agency. For more information about CCADV visit them online at www.ctcadv.org.