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Increase in patients telling GPs they are victims of domestic violence during pandemic

Doctors have been urged to “be vigilant in terms of identifying and supporting victims of domestic abuse”.
Jul 24th 2020, 6:05 AM 8,495 1

GPS HAVE SEEN an increase in the number of patients experiencing domestic violence during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Irish Medical Organisation said there has been an increase in such cases in recent months and called on GPs to be vigilant in terms of identifying and supporting victims of domestic abuse.

There was a 25% increase in domestic violence calls to gardaí in April and May, when almost 5,600 incidents were disclosed.

Many victims endure up to 35 attacks before reporting the violence, and many others do not report at all.

Dr Madeleine Ní Dhalaigh, GP and IMO Committee member, said people are more likely to disclose abuse to their GP than others, and doctors should “be more vigilant than ever for possible cases”.

“GPs can play a key role in identifying possible abusive situations and supporting victims of abuse.

“Unfortunately it is becoming more and more common for GPs to have to deal with such situations in the course of their daily work, but we can make a real difference to our patients lives if we play our part and help them to deal with or escape from abusive relationships.”

Ní Dalaigh was one of several speakers at a domestic violence webinar held for IMO members this week.

High likelihood of disclosure

Lisa Marmion, Services Development Manager with Safe Ireland, said GPs are “critical frontline responders in the community for survivors of domestic violence”.

“The reported increase in patients reporting domestic violence during Covid-19 mirrors the experience of services in the communities and An Garda Siochana.”

Marmion said there is “a high likelihood of disclosure of abuse” in a GP setting, “however, it is not enough to expect survivors to disclose abuse themselves”.

She called on GPs to be proactive in terms of asking questions about abuse.

“There should also be proactive, routine and targeted enquiry about domestic abuse from doctors themselves – this means that when a GP is enquiring about an illness, an injury, recurring anxiety or depression for example, he or she knows how to ask about domestic abuse and coercive control.

“To do this, the GP must understand what coercive control is and also understand the appropriate referral pathways to specialist domestic violence services in the woman’s local area,” Marmion said.

Safe Ireland has called for more training to be provided for medical professionals in this regard.

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