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When a Patient is Experiencing Violence

How should you behave when a patient is telling about the experienced violence?[1]

Your immediate response and attitude when a woman discloses family violence can make a difference.

Patients value emotional support from health care specialists, careful and non-judgmental listening, and reassurance that the abuse is not their fault and that negative feelings are understandable.

Listen

Being listened to can be an empowering experience for person who has been abused.

Communicate belief

“That must have been frightening for you”, “This situation is indeed dangerous”.

Validate the decision to disclose

“I understand it could be very difficult for you to talk about this”, “I appreciate very much your determination to tell me about your situation”.

Emphasize the unacceptability of violence

“Violence is unacceptable; you do not deserve to be treated this way”, “He does not have a right to do so – violence is not your fault, it is the fault of a perpetrator”.

Be clear that she is not to blame

Avoid suggesting that the woman is responsible for the violence or that she is able to control the violence by changing her behaviour. Only the perpetrator decides when and whom to choose as a victim.

Do not ask

“Why don’t you leave?”
“What could you have done to avoid this situation?”
“Why did he hit you?”