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New Safety Card Connects Domestic Violence Victims With Help

January 28, 2020

Helping victims of domestic violence can be as basic as getting the right information into their hands and listening when they reach out, according to Susie DiVietro, PhD, a research scientist with the Injury Prevention Center.

Dr. DiVietro offered a statistically and emotionally harsh look at intimate partner violence (IPV), lingo she said is replacing domestic violence, at a recent Institute of Living Grand Rounds talk. She also presented the Safety Card, a business-card-size piece containing the signs of IPV and offering 24/7 help through Connecticut Safe Connect. The Safety Card, she said, was developed for healthcare providers to hand out to every patient they see, not just those they feel might be in an abusive relationship.

“Let’s just educate everyone,” she said. “Give them two cards and tell them to give one to a friend who might need it. This will also help normalize the term ‘intimate partner violence’ for people. They can learn about risks and available support without having to disclose anything.”

Safety Cards, she said, might seem elementary, but research shows that women who talk about IPV with their providers are four times more likely to use an intervention and 2.6 times more likely to leave an abusive relationship.

“Intimate partner violence is a healthcare issue,” she said, citing such statistics as:

  • One in three women will be victimized.
  • One in seven men will be victimized, a number she estimated to be low given the reluctance of many men to disclose abuse.
  • More than three women a day are murdered in the United States. In Connecticut, it averages one every other month.
  • Pregnancy is a risk factor and 43 percent of maternal deaths during pregnancy are due to IPV.
  • About 20 percent of mothers will be killed within a year of delivery.
  • One in four children is exposed to IPV.
  • Up to 60 percent of men who abuse their partner will also abuse their child.

“There is a cycle of violence,” Dr. DiVietro said. “Boys who witness violence are more likely to use violence. Then there’s the 60 percent of children who get hurt intervening to help their mothers.”

Besides handing out Safety Cards, she called on the IOL providers to update the standard question they ask patients during office visits. Instead of “Do you feel safe at home?” she suggested asking, “Is there anyone in your life who is hurting or threatening you in any way?” The question is more specific and allows patients to respond more honestly.

She also urged the team to consider establishing a policy in which all patients will be seen by their providers for part of their visit alone. Often, she said the abuser will go to appointments so the victim cannot tell anyone of the abuse.

For information on the Injury Prevention Center, click here. For more information about the Institute of Living and its programs, click here.