Seven Meaningful Ways to Respond to Domestic Violence

Jasmin Manolo

Survivors of domestic violence (DV), —across all lines of race, socio-economic status, gender, sexuality, and other factors— experience increased rates of many health issues, including hypertension, depression, asthma, and unplanned pregnancy. So where do we start in preventing and treating such a pervasive issue?

  • Educate patients about the connection between DV and health by talking about healthy relationships—and not-so-healthy relationships. Providers can help make the connection between DV and health by normalizing discussion about the intersections of healthy relationships. The benefit of such a universaleducation approach is that patients are not required to disclose violence in order to get access to services and information, which increases safety and empowerment for DV survivors.
  • Use educational tools that make it easier to adopt an evidence-based approach. Safety cards are a patient-education tool that’s used to support this conversation while connecting patients with services. Check out the clinic materials offered by Futures Without Violence on page 11.
  • Bring a universal-education approach to health centers. Set up specific training for all health workers, from the front desk to physicians. This promotes team-based care, an important component of success in sustaining a comprehensive response to DV.
  • Collaborate with DV advocates. Many health-care providers partner with DV agencies to integrate health care and domestic-violence response systems. These collaborative partnerships are a crucial step in supporting survivors with prevention and intervention strategies, as well as links to an extensive network of DV services that may not be provided in medical settings, such as emergency shelters or legal services.
  • Help patients get enrolled in insurance coverage that supports survivor health. Before the Affordable Care Act (ACA), some insurance companies considered medical treatment related to DV a pre-existing condition that would exclude survivors from getting insurance. As of now, DV screening and counseling are covered services under the ACA. To learn more, have patients visit and
  • Take care of yourself first. Health workers are also affected by domestic and sexual violence, as well as by other forms of trauma—through both personal experiences and conversations with patients. A crucial step in addressing violence for your patients is to take care of yourself first, by examining your own relationship histories and thinking of ways you can support your own healing. The saying, “You can’t pour from an empty cup” exists for a reason.


Health professionals are uniquely positioned to serve an important role in addressing DV. By partnering with DV advocates, educating all patients about the health effects of violence, ensuring healthcare access for survivors, and taking care of yourself, you will be more effective in preventing violence and supporting survivors.

An unabridged version of this article is available at