It’s football season, and we have had no shortage of drama to hear about this season. Unfortunately, we have been overwhelmed by stories of abuse tainting the usual football news about upsets, Heisman candidates, bowl game predictions….and this news has permeated both college and NFL football.
The accusation of sexual assault against Jameis Winston, followed by sexually explicit comments made publicly on campus. The video of Ray Rice hitting his then fiancé until she could not stand. The concerns that Adrian Peterson used too much force in punishing his son.
Each of these stories has been followed by controversy about guilt and punishment for these individuals. I’m not here to give my opinion about what should happen in these cases, but rather I want to take this opportunity to talk about abuse that’s not in the news.
These instances in the media this year bring up issues of sexual violence, including intimate partner violence, and child abuse. Here are some statistics from the CDC regarding sexual violence:
The CDC also has extremely distressing statistics regarding child maltreatment.
These statistics and the stories about these football players serve as harsh reminders that abuse is all around us. Healthcare providers play a huge role in identifying signs of abuse. These stories are also reminders that abuse can affect all different kinds of people. You, the healthcare provider, have to ask about it, or you may miss it. To this point in my medical school career, I have been very timid to ask certain questions. In particular, I often fail to ask, “Do you feel safe in your home? At work? Have you ever been a victim of abuse of any kind?” Many times I just don’t think to ask, but that forgetfulness quickly changed once I began my rotation in Psychiatry this year.
A whole section of my history in psychiatry was devoted to asking about any history of trauma in the patient’s life, including abuse in the past or present. While I did forget to ask during my first few patient encounters, I quickly saw how important abuse becomes in a person’s life. I only had to see a few patients who had been victims of some sort of abuse to see that it had not only impacted their lives, in some cases it had defined some part of who they are now.
So what is our role as healthcare providers? We ask patients to share these dark pieces of their history with us, but what do we do with that information? We have been taught in medical school about levels of prevention for medical conditions such as diabetes; the same principles can be applied to abuse and are described by the CDC in the document “Sexual Violence Prevention: Beginning the Dialogue.”
This can be a sensitive subject, but we have to find ways to prevent abuse at all levels. I’m going to start by understanding when I, as a healthcare provider, am required to report abuse. It’s also important for me to know what resources are available for victims of abuse. Sometimes, they might just need help finding a way out. And I’m going to make sure I ask. It’s never too soon to put a stop to abuse.
I’m originally from Knoxville, TN, and found my way to South Carolina four years ago to pursue my undergraduate education at Clemson University. I graduated in May 2012 with a degree in Bioengineering, and I’m thrilled to be spending four more years in this area. I am passionate about USC School of Medicine Greenville’s commitment to community wellness and developing well-rounded doctors. I am excited to share this journey of our charter class with you.
Copyright 2014 USC School of Medicine Greenville