All too often, friends and family miss signs of family violence in their loved ones.  The Georgia Commission on  Family Violence has created a family violence screening tool for health care providers.  This health care protocol is a useful educational resource for anyone wanting to know more about the warning signs of family violence.   Friends and family awareness can save lives.

What is Intimate Partner Violence?

Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) is defined in the 2009 protocol as “a pattern of coercive behavior including physical, sexual, financial, and psychological abuse of one partner by the other partner.  This includes the establishment of power and control by one partner over another in the context of a current or past intimate or romantic relationship.”  Often, victims are embarrassed to admit the truth to friends or family. This is especially true if the victim is not willing to separate from the offender or call law enforcement.  The victim may be afraid of threats made by the abuser, the victim may believe the abuser’s promises to change, or the victim may be financially dependent on the abuser and see no way out.

Mandatory Reporters

Georgia law makes physicians, nurses, security personnel, and others involved in patient care at a medical facility “mandatory reporters”.    If a mandatory reporter has cause to believe that a patient’s injury or injuries are not accidental, they are required to notify local law enforcement.  The Georgia statute that establishes the duty to report, OCGA §31-7-9,  also gives the reporter immunity from liability for reporting.

Legal Definition of Family Violence

How does Georgia law define family violence?  It goes beyond violence between intimate partners or spouses.  The law is OCGA§19-3-1; it includes past or  present spouses, parents of the same child, parents and children, foster parents and children, stepparents and children, or other persons living or formerly living in the same household.  Any felony, simple battery, simple assault, battery or assault, stalking, criminal damage to property, unlawful restraint, or criminal trespass can constitute family violence and is a crime.

Leaving a violent relationship can be a difficult and dangerous process.  Safety planning is key and resources are available to help.

Georgia Commission on Family Violence Screening Protocol for Medical Facilities

Georgia intimate partner violence screening protocol guidelines include:

  • an injury not likely to be caused by the event reported
  • an injury occurring during pregnancy
  • seeking treatment for an injury one or two days after the incident
  • minimizing the seriousness or frequency of injury
  • multiple injuries in various stages of healing
  • repeated visits to medical providers or emergency  departments, especially if the severity of injury is increasing
  • attempted suicide, drug overdose, or self-mutilation
  • an overly aggressive or attentive partner
  • undetermined sources of medical or psychological complaints, unexplained illnesses or pains, sleep disorders or lack of appetite.

Family Violence Hotline

There is a 24 hour hotline for emergency shelter or information on family violence, dial 1-800-799-SAFE.

Your familiarity with the indicators of intimate partner violence could save a life.  Know the signs.

© Karen S. Hindson, Hindson & Melton LLC, November 8, 2014couple photo DS