In most cases, doctors are in a better position to discover an instance of domestic violence than the police are. During medical exams, doctors can pick up on signs of domestic violence long before the victim is ready to file a formal charge through the legal system. For that reason, many believe that doctors should always ask their patients if they’ve suffered violence at the hands of their significant others, and especially in situations where there are clear indications that a woman has been abused. And yet a study, done by the Verizon Foundation and More Magazine, shows that 76% of women have never been asked about domestic violence in a medical exam. Since we know 44% percent of women experience domestic violence, the previous figure shows that doctors aren’t being observant enough to catch signs of abuse — or they’re ignoring the signs altogether.
Not only could doctors stop abusers in their tracks by being more attentive, they could help the victim avoid future health ailments; women who have survived abuse have higher rates of health problems like asthma and diabetes, for example. 88% of abuse survivors suffer from chronic health problems, compared to 70% of women in general.
Though it’s not in a doctor’s job description to rescue women from their abusers, if they paid attention to signs and asked the right questions, they just might save a woman’s life, and her health.