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Medical Program

What Your Doctor Should Know…

medicalSafeNet’s medical advocacy program has helped improve local medical response to victims of domestic violence. As one of twelve prototype programs in the nation, our collaboration with area hospitals has provided professional education and training and protocol development aimed at early identification of domestic abuse.

SafeNet advocates are on-call at local area hospitals 24 hours a day to assist domestic violence victims with safety planning and connect them with counseling, shelter, and other services.


What Are the Health Impacts of Domestic Violence?

It’s not just about a black eye.

The Department of Justice defines domestic violence as a pattern of abusive behavior that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner. Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic and may include behaviors that intimidate, isolate, terrorize, coerce, blame, hurt or injure..

In addition to bruises and broken bones, patients often suffer chronic headaches, gastro-intestinal problems, depression and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) , sleep and eating disorders, chronic fatigue, and muscle tension..” (The Epoch Times Website)

“Abuse can have a serious impact on the way a person thinks and interacts with the world around them.   The chronic exposure to domestic violence—and the stress fear resulting from this exposure—can cause not only immediate physical injury, but also mental shifts that occur as the mind attempts to process trauma or protect the body. Domestic violence affects one’s thoughts, feelings and behaviors…” (Joyful Heart Foundation Website)

“Domestic violence can change one’s worldview and outlook on life. Being in a situation where a person is being controlled by another can create feelings of hopelessness. A survivor may develop a negative outlook in which he or she may feel “damaged” or unworthy of a better life. A perpetrator can chip away at a person’s self-esteem with constant criticism or insults, which can lead the survivor to question his or her sense of self in relation to the world.”

“But know that the effects of domestic violence are possible to overcome. Although it often requires addressing painful realities, it also entails discovering new inner strengths, a process that needs time, space and safety to begin. With time spent healing, developing strong positive coping mechanisms and taking care of oneself, such reactions tend to become less severe and it is possible to reclaim positive relationships with others and yourself.” (Joyful Heart Foundation Website)


What Is SafeNet’s Medical Outreach Program, and Why Is it Important to Erie?

Oftentimes, the first professional person to encounter a victim of Domestic Violence is a provider of health care. Linking health care with domestic violence services can be critical step in establishing safety for the survivor and the family. .

The opportunity to establish that linkage took place in n 1994, when SafeNet was selected as one of 12 sites in the United States to initiate a collaborative project with area hospitals that would facilitate early identification and intervention for victims.

Then Hamot Hospital and St. Vincent Hospital both volunteered to take part in the project which was critical to Erie’s being selected for this project. SafeNet representatives and local health care professionals were trained in Pittsburgh with a curriculum developed by the Centers for Disease Control.

Each of the 12 selected programs were encouraged to develop their own approach to intervention to move victims from repeated use of the Emergency Departments to a domestic violence program that would deal with the underlying issues. Oftentimes, victims frequently visit the emergency room for the symptoms of their abuse. Until the real issue of DV is addressed, this pattern will continue.

SafeNet and our hospital partners determined that linking the victim with the domestic violence service at the time he/she presents at a hospital was the most promising option for intervening in the cycle of violence.

SafeNet staff and volunteers have continued to provide a 24-hour response to local hospitals for more than twenty years. . On-call staff meets the patient and provides initial safety assessment, safety planning and information about  SafeNet services and other community resources.  Other immediate supportive services may be needed such as transportation to shelter, emergency Protection From Abuse orders and facilitating linkage with other attorney or counseling services.

Of the 300 or more victims seen by SafeNet each year in a health care setting, 84% to 87% follow through with one or more additional SafeNet service. For most, this is their introduction to IPV services.   (IPV stands for Intimate Partner Violence).

Training of health care personnel is essential to maintaining this intervention for victims. SafeNet is available to the health care system to provide training in the dynamics of domestic violence and   protocol for identifying and assessing DV which emphasizes assuring the safety of the victim as well as the attending health care professionals.

SafeNet values its relationship with the healthcare system as a means of providing intervention, education and advocacy to victims of Intimate Partner Violence. Collaboration is essential in providing immediate response to victims which will allow them to make a connection with Domestic Violence services and Erie is fortunate to have this service.


The Facts Are Staggering.

IPV and Healthcare Connection

(IPV stands for “Intimate Partner Violence” and is a term used synonymously with Domestic Violence)

  • IPV is an epidemic affecting individuals in every community regardless of age, economic status, race, religion, nationality, or educational background.
  • One in every three women will experience IPV in their lifetimes.
  • IPV is more prevalent among women than diabetes, breast cancer, and cervical cancer combined.
  • Emergency Departments (ED’s) treat approximately 1.3 million people per year for IPV-related injuries.
  • 85% of IPV victims are women; females ages 20-24 are at the greatest risk of nonfatal IPV.
  • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is a frequent occurrence in victims. In a study conducted in three NY state shelters found that: 92% had been hit in the head by their partners more than once, 83% had been hit in the head and severely shaken, and 8% of them had been hit in the head over 20 times in the past year.
  • Victims of IPV are more likely to receive prescriptions for and become dependent on tranquilizers, sedatives, stimulants, and painkillers and are more likely to abuse alcohol.
  • Adolescents who report experiencing dating violence are more likely to consume alcohol, smoke tobacco, use drugs, and have suicidal thoughts.
  • Direct health impact on adult and teen victims include: acute trauma and death, chronic pain, headaches, fatigue, depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation/attempts, Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD’s), Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI’s), pregnancy complications, alcohol and substance abuse, chronic abdominal pain, and central nervous and cardiac symptoms.
  • IPV is the single greatest risk factor for child abuse and neglect; 50-75% of batterers also abuse their children.

IPV Healthcare Costs

  • The costs of IPV in the USA exceeds $5.8 billion per year; $4.1 billion are for direct medical and health care services, while productivity losses account for nearly $1.8 billion.
  • Failure to identify can result in multiple health care costs, incorrect diagnosis, costly and inappropriate tests, and ongoing morbidity and mortality. 

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