Help for Victims of Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is a type of abuse usually involving a spouse or partner, but it can also involve a child or the elderly. Most cases of domestic violence are never reported to law enforcement and in fact, it takes six to eight times for a victim of domestic abuse to leave the abuser, if the victim ever leaves.

Domestic violence occurs at all income and education levels and age ranges. While most view domestic abuse as physical, it can also involve financial and sexual control and verbal intimidation.

Know the signs

While there are many signs of an abusive relationship, the most telling sign is fear of your partner. You’re in an abusive relationship if you:

  • Must always watch what you say
  • Feel that you can’t do anything right
  • Believe you deserve the abuse

Domestic violence also occurs when a person:

  • Humiliates or yells at you
  • Criticizes and puts you down
  • Ignores your accomplishments
  • Acts jealous or possessive
  • Keeps you from seeing family and friends
  • Controls your access to finances, cars and phones
  • Threatens you with violence or strikes you

Help in the hospital

Vicky Wright-Conner, B.S.N., RN, is a forensic nurse examiner and certified adult and pediatric sexual assault nurse examiner. She and other certified nurses are on call 24/7 to address domestic violence cases which often surface in the emergency room. Since July 2017, Vicky and her colleagues have responded to 35 domestic violence cases at Meritus Medical Center.

“In many emergency room situations, the abuser can be standing next to the victim,” says Vicky. “We’re trained to read the signs and ask the right questions.”

Victims can request photographs of their injuries—a first step in documentation—and decide to file charges at a later date. They can also learn about possible next steps such support groups, abuser intervention and legal resources.

Sexual assault nurse examiner also provide victims with resources such as Citizens Assisting and Sheltering the Abused or CASA, a safe harbor for children, teenagers and adults in Washington County who have been affected by domestic violence, sexual assault/abuse and rape.

“We can help in so many ways,” says Vicky. “But we can’t help if the victim doesn’t want anything done.”

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, know that nurses like Vicky can help. And remember, in domestic violence, the cycle often repeats itself and becomes more frequent and severe over time so it’s never too soon to develop an exit plan.