Domestic violence is a health issue as well as a legal and social problem. Both physical and emotional abuse can create immediate and long term health problems for you and your children.
Deciding to seek medical treatment - Seek medical treatment if your abuse leaves you with pain, cuts, head or abdominal or other injuries.
Sometimes victims of abuse believe that it is best to hide the injuries. Victims may have a number of reasons that seem sufficient to not seek medical help:
- Fear of additional abuse if outsiders find out about the abuse.
- Embarrassment about the abuse.
- A wish to deny that anything “serious” happened.
- Lack of money or transportation.
- The abuser controls the medical insurance.
If a stranger caused your injuries, would you seek medical help? If the answer is yes, don’t kid yourself. Find medical help. Counselors at local domestic violence agencies can help you address your fears and concerns. They can help you get medical help. You are not alone, there are many people who want to help.
Talking to Nurses and Doctors - You may not feel you are ready to confide the reasons for your injuries to a doctor or nurse. There are a few factors you may want to consider.
- Most doctors and nurses receive training on looking for signs of abuse. They may suspect what happened and are likely to be able to help you connect with agencies that offer help to victims of domestic violence.
- Your medical records are private unless you give permission for someone else to see them.
- It is most important that you seek medical help. Some people delay seeking medical care due to embarassment about discussing the abuse. Get the medical help anyway. You do not need to describe your entire situation. You may choose only to say that you have been hit or may choose to say nothing.
Documenting Injuries for the Future - Although you may not want to take legal action now, it is wise to have records of any physical injuries in the future if it happens again (which is likely) or you decide to take legal action later. You can obtain protection without medical records but it will help if you are able to document the incidents.
Emotional Abuse and Stress
Physical violence and the threat of violence are very stressful. Here are some ways of coping with stress that might help you.
- Talk to a trusted friend about your situation.
- Telephone a domestic violence hotline to talk anonymously about your situation.
- Take a walk (perhaps with your pet) when you feel tension in your home starting to build.
- Write in a journal or diary about your feelings.
Counseling and support groups
In addition to private therapy, individual and/or group counseling may be available from a domestic violence organization in your area. Also, some domestic violence organizations offer support groups where abused persons can share their stories and comfort each other. Contact domestic violence organizations in your area to find out more about the counseling and support groups they offer.
Information about free or reduced-cost medical services for abused persons
Your abuser may not only have caused you emotional or mental harm, but also lasting physical harm. If you have suffered facial, dental, or skin injuries that were caused by your abuser, you may be able to get free or reduced-cost medical help to help you heal.
Here are some telephone numbers to call for information about free or reduced-cost medical services available to domestic violence survivors.
Face-To-Face is a national program that provides facial, neck, and head reconstructive and plastic surgery to repair injuries caused by an intimate partner or spouse. This program is provided by the Educational and Research Foundation for the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS). For further information and applicant requirements call FACE -To - FACE @ 1-800-842-4546.
Give Back A Smile (GBAS) is a program is provided by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry for Domestic Violence survivors who have suffered frontal dental injuries as a result of domestic violence. To be eligible, you will have to be out of the violent relationship for at least one year and/ or seeking some counseling. You must also meet with an advocate (someone you may have worked with in the past who can verify your situation). Your injuries must be as a result of domestic violence to enter into this program. You will fill out an application and have the advocate refer your case. If selected, your case will be placed with a volunteer dentist as close to your area as possible, who will perform the surgery. After a dentist has been contacted, you will then receive notification of the dentist and his office hours. It will be your responsibility to get to and from all appointments. For more information on eligibility for this program, call 1-800-773-GBAS (4227).
Repairs of Scars and Burns
Skin Care Outreach Empowers Survivors (SCORES) offers dermatological surgery to domestic violence survivors to repair skin injuries (scars, burns, tattoo removal etc.) on the body caused by an intimate partner or spouse. These services are provided by the American Society of Dermatological Surgery (ASDS) to assist survivors of domestic violence in removing scars of abuse. An applicant must contact the National Coaltion Against Domestic Violence where the staff will screen and approve the application. If selected the application is then forwarded to the ASDS for a dermatologic surgeon who has agreed to perform the surgery. You will then be informed of the dermatologist and his/her office hours. It will be your responsibility to contact the surgeon for an appointment. For more information and application materials, call 1-888-892-6702.