UCSF Domestic Violence Conference to Explore Counseling Strategies

School of Medicine

Psychiatric and mental health nurse Kate Melino understands the need for domestic violence screening in health care better than most.  During her two-year employment at Toronto’s Women’s College Hospital, she was paged to emergency rooms across the city to respond to cases of domestic violence and sexual assault.

Now Melino is a student coordinator for the 13th annual Domestic Violence Conference at UCSF, which takes place on October 26.  The conference, called “Opening Doors,” will explore how to start difficult conversations about domestic violence with patients and what do to if abuse is identified.

“There’s the idea that it [domestic violence] is more of a social issue,” said Melino, “but you can see lots of health care consequences.” Kate went on to describe how for children, anxiety often manifests as stomach pain.

Chronic stress from family violence increases the chance of heart disease, stroke and alcohol abuse. Furthermore, exposure to violence is shown to contribute to poor medication adherence, chronic pain and depression.

At this year’s conference, the keynote speaker is Erica Monasterio, a UCSF faculty member who works with adults and adolescents experiencing violence in a primary care setting.

Health care professionals from each of UCSF’s professional schools (medicine, dental, physical therapy and pharmacy) will lead training workshops on the most effective screening and counseling strategies for patients in their areas of practice.

Breakout sessions and a multidisciplinary panel discussion will present up-to-date information on laws and resources for victims, as well as delve deeper into the issues surrounding elder abuse, children and violence, LGBTQ issues, violence in prisons and the military, and perspectives when working with victims and perpetrators.

The conference will close with a survivor panel comprising members of the UCSF community, to encourage those experiencing violence to speak out.

Melino acknowledged the culture of silence around family violence and believes that screening for violence is a vital first step in ending it. Speaking as a health practitioner, she said, “It’s the elephant in the room. But just asking about it means it’s safe to talk. A lot of what you do as a health care provider is modeling, the patient will follow you.”

Although the patient may not respond at the initial screening, the act of asking means, “You’re letting patients know the door is open, and maybe they’ll give you a little bit at a time.”

Health practitioners are in a unique position to educate patients on resources available, document instances of violence on their medical record, and refer them to someone who is better equipped to help, like Melino.

Between 55 percent and 95 percent of women who are physically abused by their partners never contact NGOs, shelters or the police for help. “It’s a hard issue,” said Melino, “but we need to encourage people to come forward.”


13th Annual Domestic Violence Conference at UCSF

Saturday, October 26, 2013, 8 a.m.–5 p.m.

UCSF Parnassus Campus, Health Sciences West building

Register at: http://spdvconference.eventbrite.com

Receive elective credit under EPI 180.08 (sign by October 18)

Complimentary breakfast and lunch will be provided.

Questions? Email us at [email protected].