Author(s): Gerbert B, Abercrombie P, Caspers N, Love C, Bronstone A
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Abstract This qualitative study aimed to describe, from the perspective of domestic violence survivors, what helped victims in health care encounters improve their situation and thus their health, and how disclosure to and identification by health care providers were related to these helpful experiences. Semi-structured, open-ended interviews were conducted with a purposeful sample of survivors in the San Francisco Bay Area. Data were analyzed using constant comparative techniques and interpretative processes. Twenty-five women were interviewed, the majority being white and middle-class, with some college education. Two overlapping phenomena related to helpful experiences emerged: (1) the complicated dance of disclosure by victims and identification by health care providers, and (2) the power of receiving validation (acknowledgment of abuse and confirmation of patient worth) from a health care provider. The women described a range of disclosure and identification behaviors from direct to indirect or tacit. They also described how-with or without direct identification or disclosure-validation provided "relief," "comfort," "planted a seed," and "started the wheels turning" toward changing the way they perceived their situations, and moving them toward safety. Our data suggest that if health care providers suspect domestic violence, they should not depend on direct disclosure, but rather assume that the patient is being battered, acknowledge that battering is wrong, and confirm the patient's worth. Participants described how successful validation may take on tacit forms that do not jeopardize patient safety. After validating the patient's situation and worth, we suggest health care providers document the abuse and plan with the patient for safety, while offering ongoing validation, support, and referrals.
This article was published in Women Health
and referenced in Journal of Forensic Research