There are many known factors that increase the risks of someone being abused. Pregnancy, having a baby under 12 months old, lack of safe and appropriate support sources,age,disability or other factors,making safety strategies difficult to implement. Mental health issues, substance misuse, victim threatens to leave, perpetrator threatens suicide, immigration status and isolation from family and friends.
There are also whole ranges of indicators to warn that someone may be experiencing domestic abuse; the victim usually has an inconsistent relationship with health and support services,frequent appointments for vague symptoms and or frequently missed appointments, including antenatal clinics , non- compliance of treatment or early discharge from hospital.(Responding to domestic abuse, a resource for health professionals DoH 2017)
Injuries inconsistent with explanation of cause or the victim tries to hide or minimise the extent of injuries, multiple injuries at different stages of healing or repeated injury, all with vague or implausible explanations (particularly injuries to the breasts or abdomen). Unexplained reproductive symptoms, including pelvic pain, adverse reproductive outcomes, including multiple unintended pregnancies or terminations/miscarriages.
Person may tell you that their partner insults them in front of other people, are constantly criticicing them as a parent or/and partner, and that they are constantly worried about making their partner angry.Their partner is preventing them from taking their medication and they make excuses for their partner’s behavior.Their partner is extremely jealous or possessive and they have stopped spending time with friends and family. They are depressed or anxious, or you notice changes in their personality.
Domestic abuse has a considerable impact on the victims health; both physical and emotional well-being. The immediate physical effects of domestic violence include injuries such as bruises, cuts, sprains, fractures, scratches, burns, broken teeth, loss of hair, miscarriage, concussion, stillbirth and miscarriage, and complications in pregnancy.
Domestic abuse can also cause or worsen chronic health problems of various kinds. 80% of group more than 1000 women who identified themselves as survivors of domestic abuse reported low back pain, chronic headaches, arthritis. They also had higher than average incidences of depression, diabetes, asthma and digestive disease. The research shows that 81% of women who experienced domestic violence have some type of chronic health condition (Verizon foundation 2013). Other chronic health problems can include asthma, epilepsy, migraine, hypertension, and skin disorders.
Domestic abuse also has an enormous effect on a victim’s mental health. The emotional effects of domestic abuse can cause; depression, anxiety, panic attacks, loss of self-confidence, difficulty in sleeping and concentration difficulties. It can lead to increased use of alcohol, drugs and other substances.
The majority of female psychiatric patients report to have experienced domestic abuse on their lifetime.70% of women psychiatric in patients and 80% of those in secure settings have histories of physical and sexual abuse domestic abuse commonly resulting in self-harm and attempted suicide.(Phillips, 2000; Department of Health, 2002)
One- third of women attending emergency departments for self-harm were domestic abuse survivors. Abused women are 5 times more likely to attempt suicide and third of all female suicides can be attributed to current or past experience of DA.(Women’s Aid 2013).In fact everyday almost 30 women attempt suicide as a result of domestic abuse and every week 3 women take their own lives to escape the abuse.
Many of the indicators can be quite subtle and it is important that professionals remain alert to the potential signs and respond appropriately. Victims rely on professional, friends, family and colleagues to listen, persist and enquire about signs and cues. We need to follow up conversations in safe, private and confidential settings. We might think that these are difficult conversation but they are crucial in freeing victims from abuse and violence and ultimately saving lives.
Please see useful links for: 24h Domestic abuse helpline and Department of Health DA resource for health professionals.
…..Coming soon my next blog: ”Asking someone about the safety of their relationships ”
Related to this blog are three of my previous blogs:
“The importance of inter-professional collaboration and training in domestic abuse “
“What is coercive control?”
“Domestic abuse is an epidemic- a child health issue that must be addressed by all “