The nurse asked me this question recently on my very first visit to the emergency room in my life. I won’t get into the reasons for the visit, but while I was unhappy to be in the ER, I was really happy to be asked that question.
“Yes,” I said “I am safe at home. And thank you so much for asking.”
The nurse and I discussed this screening tool and the importance of asking. She told me how sometimes people seem surprised when she asks…and sometimes they wait until they are in another room getting an x-ray or another test to break down and talk about how perhaps they are not so safe at home.
Then she says there are people like me who are so happy to be asked.
We talked about whether or not it is hard to ask. She said it wasn’t hard for her, because she asks everyone. She just explains to anyone who questions it that it is a screening question that everyone gets.
She said “You know, you can’t just tell by looking at someone if that person is being abused. So you have to ask.”
I love that nurse.
I love her attitude. And I love that she did not hesitate to ask me – even though she knew what I do for a job (and didn’t decide I “couldn’t’” be a victim) and didn’t hesitate because my husband works for her healthcare system (and he “wouldn’t” do a thing like that).
She asked. She asks everyone.
The Department of Health and Human Services has recently released new guidelines developed by the independent Institute of Medicine, the new guidelines require new health insurance plans to cover women’s preventive services such as domestic violence screening without charging a co-payment, co-insurance or a deductible. You can read more here: http://www.hhs.gov/news/press/2011pres/08/20110801b.html
I hope everyone who starts to screen under the new guidelines does the same great job that my nurse did.
Because there is no screening tool that can replace understanding that domestic violence can – and does – happen to people just like you and me.
I don’t want to return to the emergency room anytime soon, but if I do, I’ll be thrilled to be screened for domestic violence again. No matter what I do for a living or who I am married to.
Because it could happen to me, too.