Soler Urges Key Committee to Support Health Assessment for Domestic Violence

Nov 19, 2010

This week, Family Violence Prevention Fund (FVPF) President Esta Soler testified before the Institute of Medicine Committee on Preventive Services for Women that it is imperative that health providers assess patients for domestic violence, and provide counseling and referrals to those who need help.  As part of health reform, the Committee is charged with determining which preventive services are necessary for women’s health and well-being.

Soler offered data showing that domestic and sexual violence can cause significant and lasting harm to women’s health. In addition to injuries caused by this violence, she said, survivors are more likely than non-abused women to experience a host of health problems including stroke, heart disease and asthma in their lifetimes. Studies also show that asking about abuse and offering education and resources can improve women’s health and safety.

“I ask you to take a moment to think about what life is like for a woman experiencing domestic violence,” said urged. “Your home isn’t safe. You never know if the next moment will bring an assault. The violence is escalating, your confidence is gone, and your children are suffering. You’ve learned to hide the trauma and the terror, because you’ve had no choice. But you have a few moments, alone with a doctor or a nurse who is concerned about your health and well-being. Imagine the difference it can make if, in those few moments, your health provider asks about your safety, and knows how to help if you disclose abuse. And think about the lost opportunity – and the consequences – if that question is never asked.”

“If we’re serious about ending violence against women, promoting prevention and reducing health costs, we need health providers to assess patients for abuse and offer education and referrals to patients in need,” said FVPF Director of Health Lisa James. “We need to use every tool at our disposal to identify and help victims of partner violence.”

The FVPF runs the National Health Resource Center on Domestic Violence – a clearinghouse for information on the health care response to domestic violence. FVPF staff train and provide technical assistance to thousands of health care providers every year. 

Soler’s testimony is available online. Sometime next year, the Committee will recommend which women’s preventive services health plans should be required to cover without charging patients extra. It is considering a range of women’s health issues, including contraceptive services.

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