Letter to the Editor


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Use risk assessments to combat domestic violence

Despite a recent increase in domestic violence awareness, the facts remain that today three women and one man will become homicide victims of intimate-partner violence in the United States. When these tragedies become "stories" in the news, we find ourselves asking why and how they can possibly occur. But more importantly, let's ask ourselves, "What can we do?"

Medical professionals complete "risk-assessments" to help themselves weigh their options and decide on the safest choices for patient care. I suggest mandating an Intimate Partner Violence Risk Assessment, a mandatory form that professionals would complete when they are called to an intimate partner-violence event. Part of the test would be concerned with characteristics of the abuser, including such risk factors as past incarceration and whether he shows signs of a social disorder, like sociopathy. The rest would focus on the victim and her or his perceived and reported vulnerabilities. Licensed first-responders would be required to file this form with county services, and, depending on the circumstances of an event, different interventions would be required or suggested. In some cases, victims would be moved to a shelter for personal safety training.

Though some might argue this would be redundant to our current system, medical professionals agree a certain amount of redundancy is desirable when the consequences could be dire. When a patient complains of chest pain, we don't do one test — we do several. Medical professionals use risk assessments because they are systematized and less subject to bias. Often times, it only takes one miscalculation, one ignored gut feeling, to bring about the tragedies we see and hear about every day.

Dr. James L. Jones

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