Across Canada, December 6 is marked as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.
At Sinai Health, we recognize violence against women as an important health care issue, as well as a factor in the health and wellness of our people. Our hospitals is a place for comfort and caring not a place of violence. Employers and co-workers can make a difference by working together to create a safe environment for all members of our community.
We know that supporting our colleagues and our friends can make a difference to them, and helps to keep them safe just as we know that offering support to our patients who are experiencing violence can be a huge help when it comes to leaving a violent situation. It is important to remember that domestic violence is everyone’s business, and abuse and violence can happen to anyone; knowing how to respond to disclosures of violence can be the key to getting someone to safety.
We sat down with Christine Bradshaw, Mount Sinai’s Emergency Department Social Worker and Chair of the Gender-Based Violence Action Committee, to get a clear picture on what we can all do when someone we know or work with discloses that they are experiencing violence in the home. Here are some of her tips for ways to support those experiencing domestic violence:
- Provide supportive responses. Listen and validate their concerns. Tell them that no one deserves to be abused, not matter what they have done.
- Let the person know you are there to help with what they need. And thank them for trusting and telling you.
- Offer to assist them in finding resources that may help them to be safe including women’s shelters, counseling, and financial assistance. See the end of this article for some suggestions.
- Respect their choices (while understanding your duty to report). Leaving abuse is a process, not an event.
What does duty to report mean?
There are instances, especially as health care providers, and when it comes to our colleagues, where we may not be able to keep a disclosure about domestic violence to ourselves. At Sinai Health, we do have a duty to alert management if one of our colleagues discloses violence in the home to us, and you can read more about this policy here. When a patient tells us they are experiencing violence and there are children in the home, a proper assessment of the risks to those children is necessary, and we may be required to notify the Children’s Aid Society. For older adults in facilities, we have a duty to notify the Ministry of Health.
- Sinai Health’s employee assistance program, Lifeworks, has a number of articles on what to do if you are experiencing violence, and what to do if you suspect a colleague is experiencing violence. You can find them here.
- Staff can visit the intranet for more information – click here for Bridgepoint or here for Mount Sinai.
- Health care providers can take a look at this internal assessment tool with steps and more tips.
- Toronto.ca has created a comprehensive list or resources including shelters, legal services, medical services, counseling and more.