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Assess All Patients for Domestic Violence

  • Talk to the patient alone in a safe, private environment.
  • Ask simple, direct questions.

Be Aware of:

  • History suggesting domestic violence: traumatic injury or sexual assault; suicide attempt, overdose; physical symptoms related to stress; vague complaints; problems or injuries during pregnancy; history inconsistent with injury; delay in seeking care or repeat visits.
  • Behavioral clues: evasive, reluctance to speak in front of partner; overly protective or controlling partner.
  • Physical clues: any physical injuries; unexplained multiple or old injuries.

Take a Domestic Violence History

  • Past history of domestic violence, sexual assault.
  • History of abuse to any children.

Send Important Messages to Patient and Avoid Victim Blaming

  • You are not alone.
  • You are not to blame.
  • There is help available.
  • You do not deserve to be treated this way.

Assess Safety

  • Do you feel safe to go home now?
  • Have there been threats of homicide or suicide?
  • Are there weapons present?
  • Can you stay with family or friends?
  • Do you need access to a shelter?
  • Do you want police intervention?

Make Referrals

  • Involve social worker if available.
  • Provide list of shelters, resources, and hot-line numbers.
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: (800) 799-SAFE.
  • Schedule follow-up appointment.

Document Findings

  • Use the patient’s own words regarding injury and abuse.
  • Document the name of the perpetrator as stated by the patient.
  • Legibly document all injuries; use a body map.