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How can healthcare professionals better identify and support women?

Using these steps will help to ensure that women aren’t missed

Identify and intervene

1. Be open-minded and don’t make assumptions.

  • There is a common misconception that women who are at risk, or who have suffered violence, may look a certain way, may be from a certain community, have mental health issues, or be a certain age.
  • Be open-minded. Violence can affect any woman from any age group, any community, any social class, or any ethnicity.
  • Be aware that colleagues might also be at risk of, or already experiencing, violence and harm.

2. Find innovative ways to help women disclose.

  • Help reduce fears of disclosure by having places of safety and introducing innovative ways to encourage disclosure and create trust.
  • For example, you may want to include stickers in toilets for women to place on the bottom of urine test posts, to indicate that they need help.
  • Consultations over the phone or online have particular challenges. It’s important to make sure that the woman you are in contact with is alone and safe before speaking with them. Ask closed questions so that they can give ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers. And if someone is not alone, suggest another time to call back again.
  • SafeLives' "Five R's Of Asking About Domestic Abuse" (PDF 730kb) also suggest that you may wish to establish a code word or sentence, which the woman can use to indicate that it is no longer safe to talk.
  • Ensure your body language is open and encourages trust.

Direct and protect

3. Identify pathways of support.

  • Know what pathways of support are available in your local area so that you can easily and quickly direct women to them if needed.
  • Have telephone numbers to hand for help, especially if the woman is in immediate danger and needs a place of safety. Ensure that the rest of your team are aware of these pathways.

4. Ensure safe reporting and referral.

  • Accurately record any details, including potential patterns as well as health related concerns, to avoid missed opportunities in the future.
  • Use appropriate language when recording details, using the words of the survivor.
  • Look to involve a wider sphere of professionals including experts in different forms of violence.
  • Try to arrange another appointment with the woman at a suitable time to follow up.