Domestic violence has recently been brought to the forefront of attention in our country in part due to the actions of some well-known professional athletes. I recall seeing the “elevator video” featuring NFL player Ray Rice and thinking how shocking this would be for our culture to see. Personally I was less shocked than most people because as a women’s healthcare provider I know in the U.S. domestic violence unfortunately is not a new occurrence. I suppose what shocked me the most about all the media coverage surrounding this video was how naïve our culture and society has been when it comes to recognizing domestic violence. Interestingly enough as we held our ACOG meeting in our state capitol of Austin at the end of September NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was in town to meet with our state’s domestic violence center.
Domestic violence can affect unique patient populations that we care for as OB/Gyn physicians. It has been reported that 1 out of 10 adolescents are in physically abusive relationships. As OB/Gyn physicians we are well aware that domestic violence rates increase for women during pregnancy. Domestic violence is an all-encompassing term and can include physical verbal, sexual, or psychological abuse by a partner. My primary goal as an OB/Gyn physicians is to take care of women and protect them, and for some women who are victims of domestic violence the only place their partner may not go is with them to see the OB/Gyn. Our offices can serve as a safe haven for patients who are victims of domestic violence. Over the years I have learned several techniques to help provide resources and discuss domestic violence with my patients. Placing domestic violence hotline cards in the women’s restroom of the OB/Gyn office or asking partners to step out of the exam room during exams can be useful techniques to give us as physicians as well as our patients the opportunity to reach out for help. If you are a victim of domestic violence you can ask for or inquire about these resources with your OB/Gyn such as phone numbers to domestic violence hotlines, discussing strategies for safety, and developing some financial independence. Women who are victims in abusive relationships need to be empowered to take control and as OB/Gyn physicians we can support not only their safety but their strength and independence.
For good or bad the media has brought domestic violence back onto the internet, the TV, and social media. Note the wording of “brought domestic violence back”. Famous victims of domestic violence in the past apparently had been forgotten, most notably Rihanna when she was struck in the face by her then boyfriend Chris Brown. Simply making the point that domestic violence is occurring will no longer suffice. As a society we should learn from past mistakes and utilize the internet and social media to educate and provide resources for victims of domestic violence. As OB/Gyn physicians we will continue to lead the way in advocating for our patients and their safety both inside and outside of the exam room.