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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?

Image showing fictional "Dr Marc" is asking Zara questions. 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 as jealous, as you described, they react strongly and use physical force. Is this happening in your situation?

Source: BMA Board of Science 2014. Domestic abuse

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Medical Peace Work

University of Bergen

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