The Office of Women’s Health, within the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has named this week as National Women’s Health Week. National Women’s Health Week, which is observed from Mother’s Day to May 14th, is a nationwide event that calls attention to the importance of women’s health. The theme for this year’s week is “It’s Your Time”, which encourages women to take action to live healthier lives.
Some of the greatest threats to women’s health includes, and stems from, sexual and domestic violence. In addition to the immediate trauma caused by physical abuse, domestic violence contributes to a number of health problems, including arthritis, neck and back pain, vision problems, chronic pelvic pain, ulcers, and eating problems.
It has been shown that there are significant obstetric risk factors associated with domestic violence. Abused women are more likely to have a history of sexually transmitted disease infections, vaginal and cervical infections, kidney infections and bleeding during pregnancy, all of which are risk factors for pregnant women. Abused women are more likely to delay prenatal care and are less likely to receive antenatal care. In fact, intimate partner abuse during pregnancy may be a more significant risk factor for pregnancy complications than other conditions for which pregnant women are routinely screened, such as hypertension and diabetes.
While primary care and immediate attention for many people is the physical injury suffered by victims, the emotional and psychological abuse inflicted by batterers likely has longer term impacts and may be more costly to treat than physical injury. Depression remains the most common psychological impact of domestic violence, with nearly 60% of battered women reporting experiencing depression. Additionally, domestic violence victims may also experience Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, which is characterized by symptoms such as flashbacks, intrusive imagery, nightmares, anxiety, insomnia, and avoidance of traumatic triggers.
Hospitals and health care professionals can play a key early intervention role for victims of domestic violence. When they recognize signs of abuse, they can connect survivors with local resources and advocates but unfortunately, many professionals aren’t trained to correctly identify the signs of abuse when they see it.
In an effort to correct that problem, which in-turn will reduce health-care spending, Representative Louise Slaughter (D-NY) has introduced the Violence Against Women Health Initiative Act (HR 1578). The bill will provide funding for health care providers in order to assist them in identifying and preventing domestic violence.
Violence against women, and the quality of their health, truly does affect us all. Please sign Next Door’s petition and encourage your Representatives to pass HR 1578 and help eradicate violence against women and girls.