When Jayden called our clinic to discuss the worsening migraines, a medication change was a possible outcome. But shortly after our visit to the telemedicine department it was clear that a pill could not find a cure for her problems. “He’s out of control again,” she whispered, pressing her lips to the speakerphone. “What can I do?”
Unfortunately, abusive relationships like Jayden’s are incredibly common. Intimate partner violence (IPV) harms one in four women and one in ten men in the United States. People sometimes think that abusive relationships are only between men and women. However, this type of violence can occur between people of any gender and sexual orientation.
Abuse can be extremely isolating and leave you feeling hopeless. But it is possible to live a life free of violence. Support and resources are available to guide you toward safety – and your doctor or healthcare professional may be able to help in the ways described below.
What is intimate partner violence?
Intimate partner violence (IPV) is not only physical abuse such as kicking or suffocation, but can also involve physical harm. IPV is any emotional, psychological, sexual, or physical way that your partner can hurt and / or control you. This could include sexual harassment, threats to harm you, stalking, or controlling behavior such as restricting access to bank accounts, children, friends, or family members.
If this sounds like your relationship, you should speak to your health care professional or call the national domestic violence hotline at 800-799-SAFE.
What does a healthy relationship look like?
Media imagery shows us consistently blissful relationships, but perfect relationships are a myth. This culture can make it difficult for us to see unhealthy traits in our own relationships. Respect, trust, open communication and mutual decisions are part of a healthy relationship. You should be able to freely participate in leisure activities or see friends without fear of your partner’s reaction. You should be able to share your opinions or make decisions without fear of retaliation or abuse. Sexual and physical intimacy should include consent – which means that no one will use violence or guilt to force you to do things that hurt you or make you feel uncomfortable.
How can a doctor help me?
Healthcare professionals such as doctors or nurses can take a medical history and assess how the abuse affects your health, wellbeing, and safety. IPV trauma can cause visible symptoms such as bruising or scarring, as well as more subtle symptoms such as abdominal pain, headache, trouble sleeping, or symptoms of a traumatic brain injury. Healthcare professionals can also send specialist referrals if needed.
With your consent, healthcare professionals can take a detailed medical history, examine you, and document the results of the exam in your confidential medical record. Let them know if you are concerned that your partner is reviewing your medical record so that action can be taken to keep it confidential. This documentation can help strengthen a judicial process if you decide to take legal action in the future.
You may also be at risk of becoming pregnant or certain sexually transmitted infections (STIs). A healthcare professional can test for sexually transmitted diseases or pregnancy, and provide birth control options. Some forms of birth control may be less easy for your partner to recognize, such as: B. an IUD or a contraceptive implant or an injection.
Healthcare professionals can help you develop a safety plan if you feel unsafe. They can also help you connect with social services, legal services, and specially trained attorneys. If you wish, healthcare professionals can also connect you with law enforcement to file a report.
What is a sexual assault check?
If you have experienced sexual assault within 120 hours (five days), you may be offered a sexual assault medical evaluation. This test is voluntary. It will be done by a trained healthcare professional and may include a full body exam, including your vagina, penis, or anus. This may include taking blood, urine, or body surface samples and / or photographs that could be used during an investigation or legal action. You may be prescribed medication to prevent infection or pregnancy. You can click here to learn more about Sexual Assault Testing.
What can I expect when talking to a doctor about IPV?
Healthcare professionals should listen to you supportively and without judgment. While not all health professionals are trained in trauma-related care, you have the right to be treated with respect and empathy so that you feel safe and empowered. You shouldn’t be pressured into doing what you don’t want to do. This shouldn’t change the care you receive. You have the right to refuse any care that you are not comfortable with. You can decide how to proceed after exchanging information with your healthcare professional. This means that you may seek legal assistance, create a safety plan to leave the relationship, or choose to stay in the relationship and be connected to ongoing support. And you can choose not to share any abuse information.
Will the conversation be private and confidential?
These conversations should take place with you and your healthcare professional in a private room. If your abusive partner is accompanying you to your appointment, your doctor may ask them to leave the exam room for a period of time so that you have the privacy to speak openly. You can also ask to speak only to the doctor.
In most cases, under HIPAA, it is confidential to discuss your experience with your doctor. All states have laws protecting children, elders, and people with disabilities from abuse of any kind. Your healthcare professional may be required to report abuse under certain circumstances, such as: B. Violence against minors or vulnerable adults. However, few states require healthcare professionals to report abuse by intimate partners.
Where can I find more resources on IPA?
Would you like to learn more about IPV and seek help?
If you or someone you know may be at risk, call the national domestic violence hotline at 800-799-SAFE (7233) or 800-787-3224. This hotline is for everyone regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion or ability.
If you can’t speak confidently, you can visit thehotline.org or send LOVEIS to 22522. They are available 24/7 by phone or live chat and can work with you to find help near you.