Health professionals called to tackle domestic abuse 'epidemic'

In a report published this week, the British Medical Association is calling on doctors and all health professionals to be increasingly aware of domestic abuse as an issue that needs urgent attention.

Health professionals called to tackle domestic abuse 'epidemic'
Health professionals called to tackle domestic abuse 'epidemic'

The report ‘Domestic Abuse' produced by the BMA's Board of Science says doctors need to ask their patients the right kind of questions about domestic abuse and respond appropriately. It recommends that training in dealing with domestic abuse should be provided to all health professionals.

Domestic abuse is extremely common and it is important for doctors to recognise this, says the report. While this is a crime which affects both men and women, statistically 80% of reported domestic abuse victims are women.

Key points in the report include:

  • Around 750,000 children a year witness domestic abuse
  • Around 30% of domestic abuse begins during pregnancy
  • Partner abuse is as common and as prevalent among same-sex couples as among heterosexual couples
  • The total cost of domestic abuse to services in England and Wales [criminal justice, health, social services, housing and legal] amounts to around £3.1 billion a year
  • The direct health impact of domestic abuse can include fractures, burns, depression, post-traumatic stress disorders, chronic pain syndromes, arthritis, hearing or sight deficits, seizures and frequent headaches.
  • The indirect health outcomes include stomach ulcers, coronary artery disease and raised blood pressure.

Dr Vivienne Nathanson, Head of the BMA Science and Ethics, said: 'The figures we provide in this report are shocking, but perhaps more alarming is that they are likely to be grossly underestimated. Domestic abuse is an unspoken scar on our society and many individuals never report that they are victims. Sometimes this is because of social stigma or simply because they do not know who to turn to. Other times it can be because the victims are so vulnerable that they are not in a position to seek help.'

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