Stepping in for a teen at the early stages of dating when there is perceived unhealthy or violent behavior can prevent re-victimization and equip teens with the knowledge of what a healthy relationship is and is not. For adolescents at this pivotal age, health care professionals can be an important player in the recognition and treatment of abuse. In this post, we will explore the screening of teen dating violence for health care professionals as it is outlined in our Intimate Partner Violence textbook.
Role of the Health Care Provider
Health care providers are in an ideal role to identify and help those in dating violence situations. They can develop a relationship with the patient based on trust and understanding that can be met with medical advice to provide the treatment victims need based on their situation. Often, teens will not disclose violence to parents or family members due to embarrassment, fear of disbelief, or repercussions from parents who did not approve of the relationship. For teens who don’t know where else to turn, health care providers can offer help to those who wouldn’t seek it otherwise. Health care professionals are also better equipped to recognize the signs, ask the right questions, and prevent future harm with the right information, resources, and support than parents or family members who may not have the same access to information.
Typically, victims are hesitant to directly report when violence has occurred, so asking the right questions and offering an environment where patients can be comfortable are important factors to disclosing information. Part of asking the right questions include identifying the language used in the questions that makes it easier for victims to disclose. Below is a list of questions that can elicit different answers, but can help health care professionals decide if the patient needs help.
For some health care providers, it may be difficult to ask these questions for several reasons. If health care providers are uncomfortable with asking, worry about making the patient uncomfortable, or worry that once the problem is discovered they will not be able to follow through helping the patient, then questions are less likely to be asked. Alternatively, teens may not disclose because they worry their situation may be exposed to their community, which may happen if a health care provider, as a mandated reporter, would find the need to report the abuse.
Being well informed about the issue of dating violence is essential for health care providers and others in a position to help teens. If you are one of these people, our book might interest you. For more information on what we do, check out our website or subscribe to our newsletter.