Daring to ask
One of the main reasons why patients do not talk about their violent experiences is that they are not asked.
Therefore, healthcare practitioners must dare to ask if they are concerned about the possibility of domestic violence. Moreover, we have to be able to provide a reasonable amount of time, privacy, empathy, and support. When taking a history on this sensitive subject, it can be effective to start with some indirect, open questions in order to put the patient at ease. Possible questions include:
- How do you get along with your family?
- Are there any conflicts at home?
- Do you feel scared of anyone?
Marc is asking Zara. Illustration: Roger Libesch
If you notice any specific signs or symptoms, you can also ask some direct questions such as:
- You’ve had a number of bruises. Could you tell me how they happened? Did someone hit you?
- Sometimes, when people around us are over-protective and jealous, they react strongly and use physical force. Has this ever happened to you?
Source: BMA Board of Science 2014. Domestic abuse