‘I View It As A Virus:’ Holistic Treatment To Domestic Abuse


Domestic violence is almost a deadly disease in our society. Each year, over 10 million American women are physically abused each by their intimate partners. This equates to nearly 20 people per minute.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence(NCADV) One in four American women has had to deal with this. “severe intimate partner physical violence, intimate partner contact sexual violence, and/or intimate partner stalking”—which have lasting effects from fearfulness to physical injuries to PTSD to the need for victim services.

And one in three women (plus one in four men) have experienced some form of violence—slapping, shoving, or pushing—at the hands of an intimate partner.

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In the past, domestic abuse cases were handled by law enforcement, while nurses and doctors tend to mental and physical wounds. Healthcare providers have been taking the initiative to intervene in domestic violence cases.

How Doctors are stepping up

Domestic violence is often viewed as a criminal problem. This is why law enforcement traditionally takes charge of domestic abuse cases. This approach can make it difficult for victims to cope with traumatizing situations.

It’s not that doctors haven’t noticed abuse or tried to help in the past. But there’s never been a systemic, health-focused response to domestic violence overseen by trained healthcare professionals and social service partners.

Thanks to Dr. Anita Ravi, this could change.

In New York City, she runs an unusual clinic called PurpLE Family HealthIt takes a holistic approach when treating women who have suffered from intimate partner violence, sexual assault and human trafficking. It’s part of a growing network of medical centers and clinics that has realized the crucial role they can play in treating—and ultimately reducing—domestic violence.

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Beyond questionnaires in the emergency room with no follow-up, Ravi advocates for screenings and conversations in a range of medical settings—including primary care and pre- and post-natal care, because childbirth is a high-risk time for abuse.

Homicide is the leading cause for death in pregnancy and the first year following birth in the United States, according to a study published by Tulane University’s Maeve Wallace and her colleagues in the journal Gynecology & Obstetrics. “Homicide during pregnancy or within 42 days of the end of pregnancy exceeded all the leading causes of maternal mortality by more than twofold,”They wrote in it.

Physicians and other healthcare providers are now working together, rather than waiting for domestic violence victims to come to the ER to be given a brochure. Even policymakers are beginning to look at abuse as a potential health risk.

The ultimate goal is to develop a health-based approach for domestic violence cases, which can then be passed on to social service partners. Instead of law enforcement taking the lead, the healthcare and social service workers will handle the cases while recognizing that women’s health can be affected by larger social and economic factors.

“Exposure to violence, including intimate partner violence, has a direct impact on mental and physical health outcomes, and is directly tied to injury, psychological distress, and death in all age groups,”Chiquita Brooks, Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator told PoliticoSeptember

Domestic abuse is a disease.

At Ravi’s clinic, she treats her patients’ immediate medical needs, but she also connects them to a network of services and resources that can help them get out of their relationship or at least reduce harm.

All of the care at Ravi’s clinic is free, paid for by her PurpLE Health Foundation—a non-profit that she also started.

Ravi sees domestic abuse not as a collection o broken bones and bruises. “as an infection,”Recognizing the dangers that can spread to the next generation and to other people is crucial. Children who have witnessed domestic violence or been the victims are at greater risk of continuing this cycle as they get older.

Ravi has created protocols and tools to help healthcare professionals understand that their job is more than just transferring abused women to the police. She has trained over 5,000 people so far.

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