Three women are murdered each day by their husbands, boyfriends, or significant others. That’s twenty-one women every week. That means, every year over 1,000 women are killed in domestic violence situations. But we know that death is not the only result of domestic violence. The CDC reports that women in the United States receive over 2 million injuries from domestic violence each year. Of course, the number could be even greater because women do not always report their injuries or abuse to the proper authorities. I think we can agree that these numbers are astonishing. But, luckily, we do know some ways to reduce women’s risk.
Doctors and nurses can use a simple screening mechanism, consisting of a few questions about past or current abuse. Screening for this kind of violence is absolutely necessary to women for the prevention of intimate partner violence. The screening is not without its flaws. As anyone who has taken a psychology or sociology class would know, answers given are not always entirely truthful. Also, women in these situations may be too scared or under pressure from their abuser to answer honestly about their abuse. But, many victims of this kind of violence can be identified this way and begin receiving the help they need.
Fortunately, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) has recommended including screening for intimate partner violence as one of the preventive services for women that should be covered in all new insurance plans. This is great news for women in this country. Even with very slight declines in the rates of domestic violence injuries and deaths, we should be using all of the tools at our disposal to prevent any more harm to women. Of course, it’s important to note that, while this is a huge milestone, the Department of Health and Human Services has to adopt these recommendations for them to take effect.
These recommendations not only cover screenings for domestic violence, but they alsosugggest a whole host of preventive services for women that should be covered by all new health insurance plans if they are accepted. This list includes contraception, counseling for sexually transmitted infections, yearly well-woman visits, cervical cancer screening, and support for breast feeding. It could mean huge strides in the area of women’s health should they go into effect.
I urge you to contact Secretary Sebelius and encourage her to accept these recommendations.