New Bill Will Help ERs Recognize Domestic Violence

One in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime, and each year that abuse costs the U.S. health-care system an estimated $8.3 billion.

In an effort to end widespread spousal abuse–and thus reduce health-care spending–Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) last week reintroduced the Violence Against Women Health Initiative Act (HR 1578), a bill to fund training for health care providers in identifying and preventing domestic violence. Grant funding for similar programs was first made available in 2005 under the Violence Against Women Act; Slaughter’s bill would re-authorize a popular component of that program.

Said the congresswoman:

Domestic and sexual violence is all too common in the United States … This legislation is specifically designed to help health-care providers recognize victims of violence and take action to prevent these women from being harmed again.

The health care system is uniquely positioned to take a leading role in fighting and responding to intimate partner violence. By training our future doctors, nurses and other health care professionals to recognize and help us prevent future domestic attacks, we will be able to save some of the $8.3 billion domestic violence costs our health care system each year. Most importantly we can save women from repeated attacks.

The training is urgently needed. A study released by the Society of General Internal Medicine in March 2011 revealed disturbing statistics concerning how well emergency rooms–the primary form of health care used by victims of intimate partner violence (IPV)–identified cases of IPV. Of the 785 cases of domestic violence surveyed, only 27 percent were identified as IPV in emergency rooms. Of the 73 percent that went unidentified, 29.4 percent eventually died at the hands of their abusers. The researchers called for new strategies in addressing IPV cases to help emergency departments provide more assistance.

H.R. 1578 is the first step in reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which was originally passed in 1994 and has since helped protect millions of women in the United States. Since the passage of VAWA, domestic violence rates are down and over one million women have used the justice system to protect themselves against domestic violence.

Visit and tell your representative to pass this bill.

Photo of Rep. Louise Slaughter from Wikimedia Commons.