Domestic Violence is a Silent Epidemic
Take it upon yourself to ask the tough question
By Sara LaHue
As a medical student, I have the privilege of asking personal questions. My short white coat somehow transforms previously inappropriate topics of conversation into an investigation for the benefit of a patient’s health. Despite this, inquiring about bowel movements is still often easier than asking the patient if he or she is being abused at home. Both questions can have a profound impact on a patient’s life; the latter is often gravely overlooked.
In seventh grade, my best friend came to school with cuts whittled into her arms. She had repeatedly heard her mother abused at home by men she dated. Self-mutilation helped her manage the guilt and anger she wrestled with every day. During my junior year of high school, another classmate landed in the hospital after her boyfriend pushed her down a flight of stairs. I later learned she had been pregnant at the time.
My friends’ experiences are not exceptions. According to the Centers for Disease Control’s 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS), 1 in 4 women, and 1 in 7 men, have been the victims of severe physical violence at the hands of an intimate partner. Those who are raised within a violent home are also affected. The Adverse Childhood Experience Study (ACES) concluded that childhood trauma, experienced either directly, or indirectly by observing a parent’s abuse, can impair neurologic development and function.
Domestic violence affects us all, but we are often unaware of it. <pls check edit, hope this conveys the thought> Fortunately, UCSF has a tradition of passionate students coming together to draw attention to this pervasive yet silent cause of trauma by hosting the UCSF Annual Domestic Violence Conference. This unique event, to be held this Saturday, Nov. 3, is both informative and personal.
This year, participants can speak with the Executive Director of WOMAN Inc., learn how to screen for domestic violence, and attend breakout sessions on how these issues relate to teen dating, the LGBTQ community and immigration rights. Lastly, the conference offers the remarkable opportunity to learn from peers who have themselves experienced domestic violence and are willing to speak on the survivor panel.
Monifa Willis, coordinator of this year’s event, hopes that “this conference shatters the myth that domestic violence has barriers ... that persons of higher education are exempt from such struggles.”
Support your UCSF family by attending this conference, and by taking it upon yourself to discuss with your patients — or even your friends — the question that can be so difficult to ask. You might save someone’s life.
Sara La Hue is a second-year medical student. Sara is the UCSF Homeless Clinic Domestic Violence Program coordinator and was a volunteer organizer of last year’s UCSF Domestic Violence Conference.