How Does a Healthcare Provider Screen for Domestic Abuse?

Most healthcare professionals have to ask if a patient “feels safe at home.”  Victims of domestic violence may be hesitant to voice their opinion, especially to such a direct question.  Instead, indirect questions can be used to help the patient to feel at ease in sharing his/her experience.

Ideal Screening Questions for Domestic Violence

The table below has some suggested questions to ask and gives examples of framing that can help a healthcare provider ease into the difficult topic.

Screen Shot 2017-10-20 at 4.12.45 PM

Another helpful and sensitive tool for helping identify people who have been abused includes the following four HARK questions:

Humiliation: “In the last year, have you been humiliated or emotionally abused in other ways by your partner?” “Does your partner make you feel bad about yourself?” “Do you feel you can do nothing right?”

Afraid: “In the last year have you been afraid of your partner or ex-partner?” “What does your partner do that scares you?”

Rape: “In the last year have you been raped by your partner or forced to have any kind of sexual activity?” “Do you ever feel you have to have sex when you don’t want to?” “Are you ever forced to do anything you are not comfortable with?”

Kick: “In the last year have you been physically hurt by your partner?” “Does your partner threaten to hurt you?”

What Do You Do if a Patient Discloses? 

The following graphic details how the way a medical professional responds to a disclose of abuse can potentially affect the victim negatively.

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Medical Power and Control Chart














A disclosure of abuse can be difficult to handle gracefully if a healthcare professional isn’t prepared.  The table below provides a great outline on how to handle the situation.  It provides a great way for a healthcare professional to come up with a plan on how to handle disclosures in a supportive and safe manner.
Screen Shot 2017-10-20 at 4.12.58 PM

I hope that this entry helps those in the healthcare profession feel more comfortable about screening for domestic violence.

The final post in my series about domestic violence comes out this Friday, October 27th.  It covers gas lighting, a type of mental and emotional abuse, which has been gaining popularity among abusers.

My previous posts include:

  1. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month – Facts YOU Need to Know
  2. Domestic Violence – What Healthcare Providers Should Know

Here are some additional resources as well as the references that I have used:



Much of what I have learned about physical therapy and online health/wellness, I have learned from Greg Todd, the founder of Physical Therapy Builder.  He is a fantastic physical therapist whose mission is to help physical therapy students and physical therapists provide patient focused care without becoming overwhelmed.  Greg Todd is also known as a “social media guru,” and I have a lot of thank him for.  I highly suggest his courses, especially Smart Success PT.  In May, I attended Smart Success PT Live, a business, marketing, and branding course by some of the top PT entrepreneurs in the field.





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