One in four UK women will experience domestic violence at some point in their lifetime, which means every practice nurse will have contact, often repeatedly, with women who are affected. Nurses have a vital role to play in identifying and supporting women suffering abuse. But as the recent WHO report Responding to Intimate Partner Violence and Sexual Violence against Women shows, many healthcare professionals do not have the confidence to approach the subject.
Woman-centred care is the most important element of providing support for women experiencing abuse. Ensuring that abused women have the opportunity to attend appointments in private, that they understand confidentiality and nurses' mandatory reporting responsibilities, while being listened to openly and non-judgmentally are vital. It is crucial for community and practice nurses to know what local services they can point abused women to, or where else to get relevant information and support from.
Myths that surround domestic violence need to be dispelled. Absolutely any woman can be affected by domestic violence, regardless of her background or appearance. Abusive partners often act very loving in public, and their partners often behave compliantly as they're too frightened to behave in any other way. It can be easy in a busy practice to overlook the signs of abuse, especially if a woman is being emotionally, sexually or financially abused, and is not presenting with any physical traumas. It is important to be aware of the potential signs, which are listed in the WHO report, and to ask questions if a woman does appear to suffering from abuse.
Nurses play a vital role in patient care within communities and have many opportunities to notice a problem. Given that so many women are affected, nurses should feel confident about addressing the issue. Doing so could help save the life of an abused women-statistics reveal that two women are killed every week in England and Wales by a current or former partner.