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.
Seek medical treatment if your abuse leaves you with pain, cuts, or head, 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 to 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 important that you seek medical help. Some people delay seeking medical care due to embarrassment about discussing the abuse. Get 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 if 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. 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.