9791: Domestic Violence: The Kentucky Requirement

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According to the CDC's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 26.4% of women 18 years of age and older in the United States report having experienced IPV in their lifetimes; 15.9% of men also reported being the victims of domestic violence. Because of the number of individuals affected, it is likely that most healthcare professionals will encounter patients in their practice who are victims. Accordingly, it is essential that healthcare professionals are taught to recognize and accurately interpret behaviors associated with domestic violence. It is incumbent upon the healthcare professional to establish and implement protocols for early identification of domestic violence victims and their abusers. In order to prevent domestic violence and promote the well-being of their patients, healthcare professionals in all settings must take the initiative to properly assess all patients for abuse during each visit and, for those who are or may be victims, to offer education, counseling, and referral information.

Education Category: Ethics - Human Rights

Release Date: 05/01/2011

Expiration Date: 04/30/2014


This course is designed for all Kentucky healthcare professionals who may intervene to protect victims of domestic violence.

Accreditations & Approvals

CME Resource is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians. CME Resource is accredited as a provider of continuing nursing education by the American Nurses Credentialing Center's Commission on Accreditation. CME Resource is an NBCC-Approved Continuing Education Provider (ACEP™) and may offer NBCC-approved clock hours for programs that meet NBCC requirements. Programs for which NBCC-approved clock hours will be awarded are identified on the course material and website. CME Resource is solely responsible for all aspects of the program. Provider number 6361. CME Resource, #1092, is approved as a provider for social work continuing education by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) www.aswb.org through the Approved Continuing Education (ACE) Program. CME Resource maintains responsibility for the program. ASWB Approval Period: 03/13/2013 to 03/13/2016. Social workers should contact their regulatory board to determine course approval for continuing education credits. This program is approved by the National Association of Social Workers (Approval #886531582-1521) for Domestic Violence continuing education contact hours. CME Resource has been accredited as an Authorized Provider by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET), 1760 Old Meadow Road, Suite 500, McLean, VA 22102. In obtaining this approval, CME Resource has demonstrated that it complies with the ANSI/IACET Standard which is widely recognized as the Standard of good practice internationally. As a result of their Authorized Provider accreditation status, CME Resource is authorized to offer IACET CEUs for its programs that qualify under the ANSI/IACET 1-2013 Standard.

Designations of Credit

CME Resource designates this enduring material for a maximum of 3 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s)™. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity. CME Resource designates this continuing education activity for 3 ANCC contact hour(s). CME Resource designates this continuing education activity for 3.6 hours for Alabama nurses. CME Resource designates this continuing education activity for 1 NBCC clock hour(s). Social workers participating in this intermediate to advanced course will receive 3 Clinical continuing education clock hours, in accordance with the Association of Social Work Boards. This program is approved by the National Association of Social Workers for 3 Domestic Violence continuing education contact hours. CME Resource is authorized by IACET to offer 0.3 CEU(s) for this program. AACN Synergy CERP Category B. This course meets the requirements for 3 Clinical hours as required by the New Jersey Board of Social Work Examiners. This course meets the requirements for 3 Ethics hours as required by the New Jersey Board of Social Work Examiners. This course meets the requirements for 3 Cultural Competence hours as required by the New Jersey Board of Social Work Examiners.

Individual State Nursing Approvals

In addition to states that accept ANCC, CME Resource is approved as a provider of continuing education in nursing by: Alabama, Provider #ABNP0353, (valid through December 12, 2017); California, BRN Provider #CEP9784; California, LVN Provider #V10662; California, PT Provider #V10671; Florida, Provider #50-2405; Iowa, Provider #295; Kentucky, Provider #7-0054 through 12/31/2017.

Individual State Behavioral Health Approvals

In addition to states that accept ASWB, CME Resource is approved as a provider of continuing education by the following state boards: Alabama State Board of Social Work Examiners, Provider #0515; California Board of Behavioral Sciences, Provider #PCE 1632; Florida Board of Clinical Social Work, Marriage and Family Therapy and Mental Health Counseling, CE Broker Provider #50-2405; Illinois Division of Professional Regulation for Social Workers, License #159.001094; Illinois Division of Professional Regulation for Licensed Professional and Clinical Counselors, License #197.000185; Illinois Division of Professional Regulation for Marriage and Family Therapists, License #168.000190; Texas State Board of Social Worker Examiners, Approval #3011; Texas State Board of Examiners of Professional Counselors, Approval #1121; Texas State Board of Examiners of Marriage and Family Therapists, Approval #425.

Special Approvals

This course fulfills the Kentucky requirement for 3 hours of Domestic Violence Education. This activity is designed to comply with the requirements of California Assembly Bill 1195, Cultural and Linguistic Competency.

Course Objective

The purpose of this course is to enable Kentucky healthcare professionals in all practice settings to define domestic violence and identify those who are affected by domestic violence. This course describes how a victim can be accurately diagnosed and identifies resources available for domestic violence victims.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this course, you should be able to:

  1. Define domestic violence.
  2. Recognize the characteristics and dynamics experienced by those groups who are at risk for domestic violence, including pregnant women, children, men, and same-sex couples.
  3. Describe how to screen for patients who have a history of being a victim or perpetrator of domestic violence, including aspects of a culturally sensitive assessment.
  4. Outline interventions targeted to victims of domestic violence.
  5. Review resources available for domestic violence victims.


Marjorie Conner Allen, BSN, JD, received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from the University of Florida, Gainesville, in 1984. She began her nursing career at Shands Teaching Hospital and Clinics at the University of Florida, Gainesville. While practicing nursing at Shands, she gave continuing education seminars regarding the nursing implications for dealing with adolescents with terminal illness. In 1988, Ms. Allen moved to Atlanta, Georgia where she worked at Egleston Children’s Hospital at Emory University in the bone marrow transplant unit. In the fall of 1989, she began law school at Florida State University. After graduating from law school in 1992, Ms. Allen took a two-year job as law clerk to the Honorable William Terrell Hodges, United States District Judge for the Middle District of Florida. After completing her clerkship, Ms. Allen began her employment with the law firm of Smith, Hulsey & Busey in Jacksonville, Florida where she has worked in the litigation department defending hospitals and nurses in medical malpractice actions. Ms. Allen resides in Jacksonville and is currently in-house counsel to the Mayo Clinic Jacksonville.

Alice Yick Flanagan, PhD, MSW, received her Master’s in Social Work from Columbia University, School of Social Work. She has clinical experience in mental health in correctional settings, psychiatric hospitals, and community health centers. In 1997, she received her PhD from UCLA, School of Public Policy and Social Research. Dr. Yick Flanagan completed a year-long post-doctoral fellowship at Hunter College, School of Social Work in 1999. In that year she taught the course Research Methods and Violence Against Women to Masters degree students, as well as conducting qualitative research studies on death and dying in Chinese American families.

Currently, Dr. Yick Flanagan is a faculty member at Capella University, School of Human Services and Canyon College, Department of Social Work. Her research focus is on the area of racism and mental health consequences in ethnic minority communities. She and her fellow colleagues are currently administering a survey on Asian Americans, Hispanics, and African Americans’ experiences with racism and discrimination.

Dee Spring, PhD, MFT, ATR-BC, an international lecturer, specializes in the treatment of individuals who experienced "intimate" trauma with resultant PTSD; she is a consultant and qualified expert witness in several states. She has written professional articles, book chapters, and authored two books. Dr. Spring has taught at many universities and conducted training for professionals in a variety of settings. Additionally, she designed, implemented and directed the first federally funded rape crisis center in the world to utilize visual art in crisis intervention and treatment for victims of sexual assault. She is Past President of the California Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation and a past member of the Board of Directors of the American Art Therapy Association, receiving awards from both for clinical and educational achievements, contributions, and innovations related to research and use of visual art in trauma treatment. Regrettably, Dr. Spring passed away in 2010.

Faculty Disclosure

Contributing faculty, Marjorie Conner Allen, BSN, JD, has disclosed no relevant financial relationship with any product manufacturer or service provider mentioned.

Contributing faculty, Alice Yick Flanagan, PhD, MSW, has disclosed no relevant financial relationship with any product manufacturer or service provider mentioned.

Contributing faculty, Dee Spring, PhD, MFT, ATR-BC, has disclosed no relevant financial relationship with any product manufacturer or service provider mentioned.

Division Planners

Ronald Runciman, MD

Jane C. Norman, RN, MSN, CNE, PhD

John M. Leonard, MD

Division Planners Disclosure

The division planners have disclosed no relevant financial relationship with any product manufacturer or service provider mentioned.

About the Sponsor

The purpose of CME Resource is to provide challenging curricula to assist healthcare professionals to raise their levels of expertise while fulfilling their continuing education requirements, thereby improving the quality of healthcare.

Our contributing faculty members have taken care to ensure that the information and recommendations are accurate and compatible with the standards generally accepted at the time of publication. The publisher disclaims any liability, loss or damage incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, of the use and application of any of the contents. Participants are cautioned about the potential risk of using limited knowledge when integrating new techniques into practice.

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It is the policy of CME Resource not to accept commercial support. Furthermore, commercial interests are prohibited from distributing or providing access to this activity to learners.

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9791: Domestic Violence: The Kentucky Requirement


Domestic violence continues to be a prevalent problem in the United States. Because of the number of individuals affected, it is likely that most healthcare professionals will encounter patients in their practice who are victims. Accordingly, it is essential that healthcare professionals are taught to recognize and accurately interpret behaviors associated with domestic violence. It is incumbent upon the healthcare professional to establish and implement protocols for early identification of domestic violence victims and their abusers. In order to prevent domestic violence and promote the well-being of their patients, healthcare professionals in all settings must take the initiative to properly assess all patients for abuse during each visit and, for those who are or may be victims, to offer education, counseling, and referral information.

Victims of domestic violence suffer emotional, psychological, and physical abuse, all of which can result in both acute and chronic signs and symptoms. Victims may present with physical and mental disease, illness, and injury. Frequently, the injuries sustained require abused victims to seek care from healthcare professionals immediately after their victimization. Subsequently, physicians and nurses are often the first healthcare providers that victims encounter and are in a critical position to identify domestic violence victims in a variety of clinical practice settings where victims receive care. Healthcare professionals must educate themselves to enhance awareness of domestic violence in each particular practice or clinical setting.


Domestic violence, termed spousal abuse, battering, or intimate partner violence (IPV), refers to the victimization of an individual with whom the abuser has or has had an intimate or romantic relationship. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in their publication Costs of Intimate Partner Violence Against Women in the United States, define IPV as, "violence committed by a spouse, ex-spouse, or current or former boyfriend or girlfriend. It occurs among both heterosexual and same-sex couples and is often a repeated offense" [1]. Domestic violence can consist of any of many behaviors or combination of behaviors, falling under physical, psychological, verbal, sexual, and financial/economic abuse (Table 1).


Physical Abuse Psychological/Verbal Abuse Sexual Abuse Financial/Economic Abuse
Kicking, punching, biting, slapping, strangling, choking, abandoning in unsafe places, burning with cigarettes, throwing acid, throwing objects, refusing to help when sick, stabbing, shootingIntimidation, humiliation, put-downs, ridiculing, control of victim's movement, stalking, threats, threatening to hurt victim's family and children, social isolation, ignoring needs or complaintsRape, forms of sexual assault (such as forced masturbation, fellatio, or oral coitus), sexual humiliation, perpetrator refuses to use contraceptives, coerced abortionWithholding of money, refuse to allow victim to open bank account, all property is in the perpetrator's name, victim is not allowed to work

The state of Kentucky has formulated the following definitions [2]:

  • "Domestic violence and abuse" refers to physical injury, serious physical injury, sexual abuse, assault, or the infliction of fear of imminent physical injury, serious physical injury, sexual abuse, or assault between family members or members of an unmarried couple.

  • "Family member" is defined as a spouse (including a former spouse), a grandparent, a parent, a child, a stepchild, or any other person living in the same household as a child if the child is the alleged victim.

  • "Member of an unmarried couple" is used to describe each member of an unmarried couple that allegedly has a child in common, any children of that couple, or a member of an unmarried couple who are living together or have formerly lived together.

These are legal definitions utilized by the courts to determine under which circumstances an individual should be prosecuted for domestic violence.

It is important for healthcare professionals to understand that domestic violence, in the form of emotional and psychological abuse and physical violence, is prevalent in society. Unfortunately, domestic violence and abuse has become a fact of life for many Americans [4]. This course will use the terms "domestic violence" and "IPV" interchangeably.


Over the past three decades, domestic violence has emerged as one of the most serious public health problems facing women in this country [5]. According to the CDC's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 26.4% of women 18 years of age and older in the United States report having experienced IPV in their lifetimes; 15.9% of men also reported being the victims of domestic violence [60]. Although many of these incidents consist of pushing, grabbing, shoving, slapping, and hitting, 2 million injuries and 2,340 deaths from IPV occur nationwide every year [1,26,63].

According to the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, women in Kentucky are more likely to experience IPV than the national average [61]. As of 2006, more than one-third (36.6%) of women in Kentucky reported having been the victim of IPV. It is also estimated that one in nine women in Kentucky will be the victim of sexual assault in their lifetime [61]. In the United States, it is estimated that one-third of all female murder victims are killed by intimate partners [62]. One study of homicide followed by suicide in Kentucky determined that in 85% of cases, the victim and perpetrator were family members or intimates, and in 70% of cases, the perpetrator was the boyfriend or current or former husband of the victim [16]. This demonstrates that domestic violence, and its associated consequences, is a real threat to the residents of Kentucky. As a result of these troubling statistics, the Kentucky Legislature enacted legislation that requires all mental health professionals, physicians, and nurses who have been granted licensure or certification after July 15, 1996 to complete a 3-hour continuing education course on domestic violence [15].

Victims of abuse often suffer severe physical injuries and will likely seek care at a hospital or clinic. The health and economic consequences of domestic violence are significant, although statistics vary from report to report. One of the difficulties in addressing the problem is that abuse cannot be predicted by any demographic feature related to age, ethnicity, race, religious denomination, education, or socioeconomic status or class [7].

In 2003, the CDC published the results of its U.S. Congress-funded study to determine the cost of domestic violence on the healthcare system [1]. The CDC report, which relied on data from the National Violence Against Women Survey conducted in 1995, estimated the costs of IPV by measuring how many female victims were nonfatally injured; how many women used medical and mental healthcare services; and how many women lost time from paid work and household chores in 1995. The estimated total cost of IPV against women in 1995 was more than $5.8 billion; when updated to 2003 dollars, the cost is more than $8.3 billion. It must be noted that the costs of any one victimization may continue for years; therefore, these numbers most likely underestimate the actual cost of IPV [1,64].

The rate of domestic violence against women has declined significantly from 1993 to 2005, dropping from 1.1 million violent crimes against women in 1993 to 615,790 in 2005. The rate of overall family violence also fell by more than one-half in this time period [9,10]. Studies reveal that several factors may be contributing to the reduction in violence, including a decline in the marriage rate and a decrease of domesticity, better access to federally-funded domestic violence shelters, improvements in women's economic status, and demographic trends, such as the aging of the population [21,39].


Healthcare professionals are in a critical position to identify domestic violence victims in a variety of clinical practice settings in which women receive care. Nurses are often the first healthcare provider a victim of domestic violence will encounter in a healthcare setting, and must therefore, be prepared to provide care and support for these victims [6]. Although women are most often the victims of violence, domestic violence extends to others in the household as well. For example, domestic violence occurs when children are abused by their parents, when parents are abused by their children, when elderly are abused, and when siblings abuse each other [19].


Because a gynecologist or obstetrician is frequently a woman's primary care physician, these healthcare providers must be particularly sensitive to domestic violence issues [19]. According to the CDC, IPV affects as many as 324,000 pregnant women each year [52]. This represents approximately 8% of all pregnant women in the United States. As with all domestic violence statistics, this number is presumed to be lower than the actual incidence as a result of under-reporting and lack of data on women whose pregnancies ended in fetal or maternal death. This makes IPV more prevalent among pregnant women than some of the health conditions included in prenatal screenings, including pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes [52]. Because 96% of pregnant women receive prenatal care, this is an optimal time to screen for domestic violence and develop trusting relationships with the women. Possible factors that may predispose pregnant women to IPV include young maternal age, unintended pregnancy, delayed prenatal care, lack of social support, and use of tobacco, alcohol, or illegal drugs [52,65].

The overarching problem of violence against women cannot be ignored, especially as both mother and unborn child are at risk. At this particularly vulnerable time in a woman's life, an organized clinical construct leading to immediate diagnosis and medical intervention will ensure that therapeutic opportunities are available to the pregnant woman and will reduce the potential negative outcomes [7,20]. Healthcare professionals should also be aware of the possible psychological consequences of abuse during pregnancy. There is a higher risk of stress, depression, and addiction to alcohol and drugs in abused women. These conditions may result in damage to the fetus from drugs and alcohol and a loss of interest on the part of the mother in her or the fetus's health [22].


The United States is becoming increasingly diverse in terms of ethnic composition. During the 1990s, the combined population of African Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Hispanics/Latinos in the United States grew at 13 times the rate of the non-Hispanic, white population [17]. It is inevitable, therefore, that race, culture, and ethnicity will have a profound effect on American culture. Consequently, health professionals must become more aware of, and sensitive to, the cultural norms, belief systems, and needs of culturally diverse patients in order to provide relevant services and interventions. Results from the National Violence Against Women Survey indicate that all racial minorities in the United States experience more IPV than white Americans, with the exception of Asian Americans [9,46]. It has been suggested that ethnic minority groups may be more vulnerable to violence as a result of environmental risk factors such as poverty, racism, oppression, and discrimination. For example, one study suggests that nearly one-third of African American women experience IPV in their lifetimes, compared with one-fourth of white American women [46]. Another study with 1,234 Mexican American adults found that 20% of the sample reported physical violence against a spouse. Researchers found that those born in the United States reported a rate of violence 2.4 times higher (30.9%) than those born in Mexico (12.8%) [47]. In the Asian American community, the mistaken notion that Asian Americans have achieved success often cloaks the issue of domestic violence. In a telephone interview with 262 Chinese American men and women in Los Angeles County, 81% reported verbal abuse within the past 12 months, and 85% reported verbal abuse in their lifetime. Furthermore, 6.8% reported physical spousal abuse in the last 12 months; 18% had been physically abused in their lifetime [48]. Although this is a small study, it does indicate that domestic abuse is an issue for some Asian Americans.

Culture, race, and ethnicity also influence help-seeking patterns. Help-seeking behavior is in part influenced by an individual's definition and understanding of abuse, which is ultimately influenced by culture. For example, an ethnic minority woman who is being abused by her husband may not seek help because she does not label the event as a problem. Instead, she believes the abuse is something to be persevered. Financial limitations, suspiciousness or wariness of health or mental health professionals, and inconvenience in locating and traveling to agencies are also hindrances specific to these populations [49].


Children who are raised in violent homes are also in danger. These children are at high risk for abuse and for emotional damage that may affect them as they grow older. As many as 70% of children from violent homes have witnessed their fathers battering their mothers. Studies demonstrate that children who witness domestic violence are more likely to grow into a perpetrator or victim of domestic violence than a child who was himself or herself abused, thereby creating a cycle of violence. For example, male adolescents who witness domestic violence are many times more likely to batter their mates later in life [23]. A meta-analysis of 118 studies of the psychosocial outcomes of children exposed to domestic violence found that 63% of child witnesses exhibited more aggression, anxiety, difficulties with peers, and academic problems than the average child [42]. In addition to witnessing violence, these children may also become direct victims of violence, as between 50% and 70% of husbands who batter their wives also batter their children [6]. Moreover, statistics demonstrate that 85% of domestic violence victims abuse or neglect their children.

Adolescents are also victimized. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 5% of all homicides against girls 12 to 17 years of age are committed by an intimate partner [66]. Among young women 18 to 24 years of age, the rate is 29%. Abused teens often do not report the abuse. Individuals 12 to 19 years of age report only 35.7% of crimes against them, compared to 54% in older age groups [43]. Accordingly, healthcare professionals who see young children and adolescents in their practice must have the tools necessary to detect these "silent victims" of domestic violence and to intervene quickly to protect young children and adolescents from further abuse.


Abused and neglected elders, who may be mistreated by their spouses, partners, children, and other relatives, are among the most isolated of all victims of family violence. In a national study conducted by the National Center on Elder Abuse, there was a total of 565,747 reports of elder abuse to Adult Protective Services in the United States in 2004, 461,135 of which were investigated. This was a nearly 200% increase from the 293,000 reports in 1996 [44]. The prevalence rate of elder abuse in institutional settings is not clear. However, in one nonprobability study, 36% of nursing and aide staff disclosed to having witnessed at least one incident of physical abuse by other staff members in the preceding year. When asked whether they themselves perpetrated physical abuse against an elderly resident, 10% admitted they had [18].

Because elder abuse can occur in family homes, nursing homes, board and care facilities, and even medical facilities, healthcare professionals must remain keenly aware of the potential for abuse. When abuse occurs between elder partners, it is primarily manifested in one of two ways, either as a long-standing pattern of marital violence, or as abuse originating in old age. In the latter case, abuse may be precipitated by issues related to advanced age, including the stress that accompanies disability and changing family relationships [6].

It is important to understand that the domestic violence dynamic involves not only a victim but a perpetrator as well. For example, an adult son or daughter who lives in the parents' home and depends on the parents for financial support may be in a position to inflict abuse. This abuse may not always manifest itself as violence, but can lead to an environment in which the elder parent is controlled and isolated. The elder may be hesitant to seek help because the abuser's absence from the home may leave the elder without a caregiver [6]. Because these elderly victims are often isolated, dependent, infirm, or mentally impaired, it is easy for the abuse to remain undetected. Healthcare professionals in all settings must remain aware of the potential for abuse and keep a watchful eye on this particularly vulnerable group.


Statistics confirm that domestic violence is predominantly perpetrated by men against women; however, there is evidence to suggest that women also exhibit violent behavior against their male partners [24]. Studies demonstrate that approximately 5% of murdered men are killed by intimate partners [9]. It is persuasively argued that the impact on the health of female victims of domestic violence is generally much more severe than the impact on the health of male victims [25]. However, approximately 835,000 men are raped and/or physically assaulted by an intimate partner each year [26]. In addition, 1 of every 14 men has been physically assaulted or raped by an intimate partner [26]. IPV accounted for 4% of nonfatal violence against men in 2005 [9]. Healthcare professionals must always keep in mind that males can also be victimized.


Domestic violence exists in the gay and lesbian community, and the rates are thought to mirror those of heterosexual women, approximately 25% [28]. It is interesting to note, however, that women living with female intimate partners experience less IPV than women living with men [26]. Conversely, men living with male intimate partners experience more IPV than do men who live with female intimate partners [26]. This supports other statistics indicating that IPV is perpetrated primarily by men. Because of the stigma of being gay, victims may be reticent to report abuse and afraid that their sexual orientation will be revealed. Many in this community feel that support services are not available to them due to prejudices of the service providers. Unfortunately, this results in the victim feeling isolated and unsupported. Healthcare professionals must strive to be sensitive and supportive when working with homosexual patients.


As with domestic violence in the civilian population, military victims face a host of barriers in disclosing abuse. In addition to shame and embarrassment, fear of reprisals, feelings of isolation, and lack of available services, many military victims found when they did report abuse, military personnel were not sensitive to their needs [3]. Given these barriers to disclosure, it is difficult to assess the prevalence of domestic violence among military families. According to the U.S. Department of Defense, there were a total of 18,208 reported incidents of domestic abuse in 2009 [8]. However, it should be noted that a 2010 report released by the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) indicated that the U.S. Department of Defense's use of multiple registries and inclusion of only those reports made to the Family Advocacy Program (excluding cases handled by civilian law enforcement, identified by nonmilitary medical staff, and reported to commanders) make calculating the actual number of domestic violence cases impossible [8].

The Family Advocacy Program is responsible for seeing that victims remain safe and have access to support and advocacy services and that offenders receive appropriate intervention services [11]. The Program works to prevent domestic abuse by educating service members and families about the issue; identifying families experiencing domestic abuse; providing support services to victims of abuse; and providing treatment for abusers.

Risk factors among this group are complex and multifaceted. Brewster conducted a study of 2,991 abusers who used physical domestic violence that received treatment at the Air Force Family Advocacy Program and agreed to participate in the study. As with the general population, the physical violence sustained was more severe when the offender was male. However, previously reported domestic violence cases were higher than the base rate for the general population-one in four had been reported for spouse abuse, and one in eight offenders had been substantiated for spouse abuse [12].

It has also been speculated that deployment, exposure to the trauma of combat, and the development of post-traumatic stress symptoms provokes military veterans to be violent at home [13,14]. Furthermore, when these veterans do obtain treatment, either voluntarily or as mandated, many do not complete their treatment regimens. A sample of 62 male perpetrators from a domestic violence rehabilitation program participated in a study. Forty-eight men were veterans, while the remaining 14 were active duty. In general, findings showed that there was a relationship between the severity of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the severity of domestic violence. Furthermore, there was a relationship between the severity of PTSD and the witnessing of parental domestic violence during childhood. Findings also indicated that those who did not complete treatment were usually older than 35 years of age, had higher levels of post-traumatic stress, experienced higher levels of stress in their daily lives, and reported less mutuality in their relationships [14].


A tremendous barrier to diagnosing and treating domestic violence is a lack of knowledge and training. Healthcare workers are able to recognize and accurately interpret behaviors associated with domestic violence and abuse; however, they are often hesitant to inquire about abuse [29,30]. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists indicates that only 6% of its membership of more than 33,000 physicians routinely ask their patients about abuse [6]. Approximately 10% of primary care physicians routinely screen for intimate partner abuse during new patient visits, and 9% routinely screen during periodic checkups [31]. In another study, only 8% of family physicians and 5% of pediatricians routinely screened a parent for intimate partner violence during well-child and teen visits [32]. Many of these physicians indicated that additional education regarding domestic violence screening and interventions was necessary.

Although both the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend screening for IPV at each patient contact, this practice is not being incorporated into routine clinical practice. Several barriers to incorporating domestic violence screening have been identified, including lack of physical evidence of abuse, perceptions regarding prevalence of abuse, lack of training and continuing education on the topic, and lack of office protocols [32,67].

It is imperative that healthcare professionals work together to establish specific guidelines that will facilitate identification of batterers and their victims. These guidelines should review appropriate interview techniques and should also include the utilization of screening tools, such as intake questionnaires. The following is a review of certain signs and symptoms that may indicate the presence of abuse. Although victims of domestic violence do not display typical signs and symptoms when they present to healthcare providers, there are certain cues that may be attributable to abuse. The obvious cues are the physical ones. Injuries range from bruises, cuts, black eyes, concussions, broken bones, and miscarriages to permanent injuries such as damage to joints, partial loss of hearing or vision, and scars from burns, bites, or knife wounds. Typical injury patterns include contusions or minor lacerations to the head, face, neck, breast, or abdomen. These are often distinguishable from accidental injuries, which are more likely to involve the periphery of the body. In one hospital-based study, domestic violence victims were 13 times more likely to sustain injury to breast, chest, or abdomen than accident victims. Abuse victims are also more likely to have multiple injuries than accident victims. When this pattern of injuries is seen in a patient, particularly in combination with evidence of old injury, physical abuse should be suspected [20].

In addition to physical signs and symptoms, domestic violence victims also exhibit psychological cues that resemble an agitated depression. As a result of prolonged stress, victims often manifest various psychosomatic symptoms that generally lack an organic basis. For example, they may complain of backaches, headaches, and digestive problems. Often they will complain of fatigue, restlessness, insomnia, or loss of appetite. Great amounts of anxiety, guilt, and depression or dysphoria are also typical [20,33]. In many women, this constellation of symptoms has been labeled "Battered Women's Syndrome." Unfortunately, physicians may respond to these women by diagnosing the patient to be neurotic or irrational [25]. Healthcare professionals must cast aside these misperceptions of abused victims and work within their respective practice settings to develop screening mechanisms to detect women who exhibit these symptoms.

For every victim of abuse, there is also a perpetrator. Like their victims, perpetrators of domestic violence come from all socioeconomic backgrounds, races, religions, and walks of life [27]. Accordingly, healthcare professionals must be aware that seemingly supportive family members may, in fact, be abusers. Perpetrators and their victims in lower socioeconomic groups are more likely to present in hospital emergency rooms and local community clinics. Conversely, people of higher socioeconomic status are more able to turn to the private clinician for assistance [27].

Abuser characteristics have been studied far less frequently than victim characteristics. Some studies suggest a correlation between the occurrence of abuse and the consumption of alcohol. A man who abuses alcohol is also likely to abuse his mate, although the abuser may not necessarily be inebriated at the time the abuse is inflicted [34]. Screening questionnaires should include questions that explore social drinking habits of both the victim and his or her mate.

Other studies demonstrate that abusive mates are generally possessive and jealous. Another characteristic related to the batterer's dependency and jealousy is extreme suspiciousness. This characteristic may be so extreme as to border on paranoia [27]. In addition, domestic violence victims have frequently reported that abusers are extremely controlling of the everyday activities of the family. This domination is generally all encompassing. One battered woman gave the following examples of her controlling husband: "He insisted that no one (including guests and their toddler children) wear shoes in the house, that the furniture be in the same indentations in the carpet, that the vacuum marks in the carpet be parallel, and that any sand that spilled from the children's sandbox during their play be removed from the surrounding grass" [35]. In addition, healthcare professionals should be on the lookout for men who have low self-esteem, are frequently angry and depressed, and are "very dependent on their partners as the sole source of love, support, intimacy, and problem solving" [33].

Both batterers and battered partners are noted for being extremely dependent upon each other. It appears that each member of the couple believes that he or she will perish without the other and that the survival of each can only occur if the conjugal relationship remains intact. This belief ostensibly arises from their negative self images, which cause the couple to doubt both their ability to live independently and to find other partners who will accept them. Both tend to deny or minimize the scope and severity of the violence in their relationship. This denial makes the conjugal relationship appear more viable and desirable to both [36].

These particular relationship dynamics are not easily detected under the best of circumstances. They may be especially difficult to uncover in circumstances in which the parties are suspicious and frightened, as might be expected when a victim presents to an emergency room. The key to detection, however, is to establish a proper screening tool that can be utilized in the particular setting, and to maintain a keen awareness for cues. Screening should be carried out at the entry points of contact between victims and medical care (e.g., primary care, emergency services, obstetric and gynecologic services, psychiatric services, pediatric care) [20].

The key to an initial screening is to obtain an adequate history. Establishing that a patient's injuries are secondary to battering is the first task. Clearly there will be times when a victim is injured so severely that treatment of these injuries becomes the first priority [37]. After such treatment is rendered, however, it is important that healthcare professionals not ignore the reasons that brought the victim to the emergency room.

Of female trauma patients, 16% to 30% will report that they have been battered when asked directly about how the injury occurred. Obviously, however, some victims will not admit to a history of battering. Any trauma or burn that seems incompatible with a history of the injury is suggestive of battering and indicative of the need for gentle probing regarding how things are at home. Information must also be collected to facilitate a comprehensive assessment of the victim's needs, resources, and priorities in order to develop immediate and long-range plans designed to minimize and eliminate future abusive episodes. A structured interview can be used to obtain the necessary information for treatment planning (Table 2) [37].

Structured Interview for Treatment Planning

  1. How were you hurt?

  2. Has this happened before?

  3. When did it first happen?

  4. How badly have you been hurt in the past?

  5. Was a weapon involved?
    Is there a weapon in your residence?

  6. What kind of weapon?

  7. Who lives in your residence?

  8. What are the children's ages?

  9. Are the children in danger?

  10. Have they been hit or hurt by the perpetrator?

  11. How badly have they been hit or hurt?

  12. Have you ever told anyone about this before?
    If so, who?

  13. What have you done in the past to protect yourself?

  14. What have you done in the past to get help?

  15. Have you ever called the police?

  16. If yes, when and what did they say/do?

  17. Did you report this incident to the police?
    If not, why not?

  18. If yes, what precinct?

  19. What did they say/do?

  20. Have you ever obtained a protective order?

  21. Have you tried to press charges this time or before?

  22. Does the perpetrator have a criminal record?

  23. Has he/she beaten or hurt other people?

  24. Has he/she threatened to kill you?

  25. Has he/she tried to kill you?

  26. If so, what did he/she do?

  27. Are you afraid to go home?

  28. Where can you go?

  29. Have you ever called a crisis center for help?

  30. If so, who is your contact person there?

  31. If not, why not?

  32. Do you know the phone number of the
    local crisis center?

After the history is obtained and initial treatment is started, it is imperative to document all findings and recommendations in the victim's medical record. The medical record can be invaluable in establishing the credibility of the domestic violence victim's story when he or she seeks legal aid [37].


Healthcare professionals must be aware of their legal obligation to report domestic violence to the proper authorities. Kentucky law requires healthcare professionals to report cases of suspected spouse abuse to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services when they determine that a patient is the victim of abuse or neglect inflicted by a spouse [55,56,57]. This particular law does not encompass domestic violence generally, but only cases in which the abuse is committed by a spouse. Practically speaking, this leads healthcare providers to make a series of decisions. When providers become aware of an abuse situation, they must determine who is inflicting the abuse. If it is determined that a spouse is abusing the patient, then the obligation to report is mandatory. Another provision of Kentucky law encompasses other types of domestic violence. If healthcare professionals are unable to determine who has inflicted abuse on a patient, either because the patient refuses or is unable to tell, they must then determine if the victim, because of mental or physical dysfunctioning, is able to manage his or her own resources and carry out the activities of daily living. In addition, healthcare professionals must ascertain whether or not the patient can protect himself or herself from neglect or hazardous or abusive situations without assistance from others. If the answer to either question is no and the patient is in need of protective services, then again, the obligation to report is mandatory [56,57].

A physician may argue that by reporting abuse without the patient's consent, the physician would be violating the physician-patient relationship. The law mandating healthcare professionals to report instances of spouse abuse is, however, a legislative exception to the physician-patient relationship [57]. If a healthcare professional knowingly and willfully fails to report a case of suspected abuse as mandated by the law, then he or she can be subject to criminal penalties [58]. In fact, a healthcare professional who reports a suspected case of abuse in good faith in accordance with these laws is protected from civil and criminal liability [59].


During the assessment process, a practitioner must be open and sensitive to the client's/patient's worldview, cultural belief systems, and how he/she views the injury [45]. This may reduce the tendency to over-pathologize or minimize health concerns of ethnic minority patients. Pachter proposed a dynamic model that involves several tiers and transactions [40]. The first component of Pachter's model calls for the practitioner to take responsibility for cultural awareness and knowledge. Professionals must be willing to acknowledge that they do not possess enough or adequate knowledge in health beliefs and practices among the different ethnic and cultural groups they come in contact with. Reading and becoming familiar with medical anthropology is a good first step.

The second component emphasizes the need for specifically tailored assessment [40]. Pachter advocates the notion that there is tremendous diversity within groups. For example, one cannot automatically assume that a Chinese immigrant adheres to traditional beliefs. Often, there are many variables, such as level of acculturation, age at immigration, educational level, and socioeconomic status, that influence health ideologies. Finally, the third component involves a negotiation process between the client/patient and the professional [40]. The negotiation consists of a dialogue that involves a genuine respect of beliefs. It is important to remember that these beliefs may affect symptoms or appropriate interventions in the case of domestic violence.

Culturally sensitive assessment involves a dynamic framework whereby the practitioner engages in a continual process of questioning. These components are meant to provide an introduction to help practitioners recognize the range of dimensions, including physical, biological, social, and cultural factors, that affect immigrants and ethnic minorities. By incorporating cultural sensitivity into the assessment of individuals with a history of being victims or perpetrators of domestic violence, it may be possible to intervene and offer treatment more effectively.



All practitioners who deal with domestic violence should periodically review safety planning with victims. Homicide is of high risk for victims; therefore, safety planning is crucial. When advocating a safety plan, it is important to:

  • Encourage the victim to be aware of weapons in the residence.

  • Have victims make a plan of what to do if violence escalates and where to go if leaving is an option.

  • If children are old enough, they should be instructed about the safety plan and assigned roles.

  • When possible, victims should save some money in a private bank account or hide money for escape. Victims should be informed that if the abuser finds out about a separate bank account, they could be in danger.

  • Encourage victims to keep a bag packed with necessities and stored in a safe place in the event leaving must be immediate.

  • Advise victims to work out a code word or signal with the children so they will know when to implement an escape plan.

  • Encourage victims to keep a list of important phone numbers in their packed bag. Memorizing important numbers provides more safety.

  • Recommend that copies of important documents and necessary items be available.

Although safety planning may be advocated, it does not necessarily mean victims will employ safety planning guidelines.


If a victim requires or requests legal assistance, local spouse abuse centers will be able to assist in making the appropriate referral. For purposes of this course, it is important for healthcare professionals to know that domestic violence victims in Kentucky have legal remedies available to them.

The first form of legal protection is an emergency protective order, which can be filed and heard by a judge without the batterer being informed of the filing or of the hearing. The batterer will not be present at the hearing, and the victim can present his or her evidence unopposed. This is referred to in the legal community as an ex parte hearing. The associated forms are relatively simple to file, and an attorney is not required. Having an attorney present, however, may result in obtaining a more thorough order. If the victim is not represented by an attorney, it is important that a battered woman's advocate, often called a legal advocate, be located to accompany the victim to court. To find an advocate trained in domestic violence issues, healthcare professionals may contact a local domestic violence center. The most ideal representation and assistance in these circumstances is usually a team approach that draws upon the expertise of an attorney and a domestic violence advocate/counselor [50].

Kentucky law provides that a judge can enter an emergency protective order that [51]:

  • Restrains the batterer from any contact or communication with the abused party, except as directed by the court

  • Restrains the batterer from committing further acts of domestic violence and abuse

  • Restrains the batterer from disposing of or damaging any of the property of the parties

  • Directs the batterer to vacate the residence shared by the abused party

  • Grants temporary custody of minor children under certain circumstances

  • Restrains the batterer from coming within a certain distance of specifically described locations or persons

The judge is not restricted to only these remedies, but can enter other orders he or she believes will be of assistance in eliminating future acts of domestic violence and abuse. The emergency protective order will be effective for a fixed period of time, as noted in the order, not to exceed 14 days. A copy of this order will be served upon the batterer, and if he or she violates any condition of the order, criminal penalties may be levied [52].

If victims are in need of long-term protection, they must apply for a civil protective order. In these cases, the batterer is given notice of the hearing and is allowed to attend and present witnesses. If the court finds that a protective order is warranted, the same format as the emergency protective order will be followed to restrain the batterer from having contact with the victim [53]. In a civil protective order, the protection is effective for a defined period and the judge can set an indefinite period of time. Batterers who violate the conditions of the protective order are subject to criminal penalties, including incarceration.

If a batterer violates the terms of the protective order, the police should be contacted immediately. When the police arrive, the victim should show the police the order or inform the officers of its existence. In Kentucky, a police officer who witnesses the batterer violating the terms of the protective order is required to arrest him or her [54]. If the batterer is no longer present when the police arrive, the victim should request that a report of the violation, and of any other crimes, be written. The victim can then follow-up on the violation by contacting the prosecutor's office and ask that an arrest warrant be issued based on the violation [50].

If an arrest is made for a misdemeanor, such as violating a protection order, offenders may simply be given a citation and released. If a batterer is arrested and taken into custody, he or she may be released within a few hours. It is important, therefore, to advise victims to use this time to gather their children and personal belongings, to find a safe place to stay, to begin the process of obtaining a protection order if they do not have one, and/or to seek out a domestic violence program [50]. Victims should be fully informed about the criminal justice process, their role in it, and the possible outcomes of a criminal case so they can decide whether to turn to the criminal justice system for assistance.

If the prosecuting attorney decides to pursue a criminal complaint, there will be an arraignment. During the arraignment, the court informs the batterer of the charges and ensures that he or she has legal representation. Victims may be called to testify at an evidentiary hearing or at trial. If a victim does not want to testify, a court may issue a subpoena ordering him or her to testify; noncompliance with such a subpoena is a violation of law. Most cases are resolved before trial; if the case proceeds to trial, however, victims are again required to testify [50]. If the batterer is convicted, a judge will sentence him or her to one or any combination of the following: a fine; imprisonment; probation; victim restitution; mandatory counseling; mediation; substance-abuse treatment; or public service [50].


After identifying victims and their abusers, healthcare professionals should immediately implement a plan of action that includes providing a referral to a local domestic violence shelter to assist the victim and the victim's family. The acute situation should be referred immediately to local law enforcement officials. Other resources in an acute situation include crisis hotlines and rape relief centers.

In Kentucky, there are a number of domestic violence centers that provide 24-hour crisis lines, temporary shelter, counseling, casework services, children's services, hospital/legal advocacy, information and referral services, and support to domestic violence victims and their children. A list of these centers along with particular counties each center serves is provided here. In addition, domestic violence victims in Kentucky have access to a number of state and national reporting hotlines. These telephone numbers are available following the list of domestic violence centers.

After a victim is introduced into the system, counseling and follow-up is generally available by individual counselors who specialize in the care of domestic violence victims, their spouses, and children. These may include social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, other mental health workers, and community mental health services. The goals are to make the resources accessible and safe and to enhance support for victims who are unsure of their options [38].


Bethany House Abuse Shelter, Inc.
PO Box 864, Somerset, KY 42502
Phone: 606-679-1553
Crisis Only: 800-755-2017
Areas Served: Adair, Casey, Clinton, Cumberland, Green, McCreary, Pulaski, Russell, Taylor, Wayne

Big Sandy Family Abuse Center
PO Box 1297, Prestonburg, KY 41653
Phone: 606-285-9079
Crisis Only: 800-649-6605
Areas Served: Floyd, Johnson, Magoffin, Martin, Pike

Bluegrass Domestic Violence Program
PO Box 55190, Lexington, KY 40555
Phone: 859-233-0657
Crisis Only: 800-544-2022
Counties Served: Franklin, Anderson, Mercer, Boyle, Lincoln, Garrard, Jessamine, Woodford, Scott, Fayette, Madison, Estill, Powell, Clark, Bourbon, Nicholas, Harrison

Barren River Area Safe Space (BRASS), Inc.
PO Box 1941, Bowling Green, KY 42102
Phone: 270-781-9334
Crisis Only: 800-928-1183
Areas Served: Allen, Barren, Butler, Edmonson, Hart, Logan, Metcalfe, Monroe, Simpson, Warren

The Center for Women and Families
PO Box 2048, Louisville, KY 40201
Phone: 502-581-7200
Crisis Only: 877-803-7577
Areas Served: Bullitt, Henry, Jefferson, Oldham, Shelby, Spencer, Trimble

PO Box 1012, Morehead, KY 40351
Phone: 606-784-6880
Crisis Only: 800-221-4361
Areas Served: Bath, Menifee, Montgomery, Morgan, Rowan

Christian Appalachian Project - Family Life Abuse Center
PO Box 674, Mount Vernon, KY 40456
Phone: 606-256-9511
Crisis Only: 800-755-5348
Areas Served: Bell, Clay, Harlan, Jackson, Knox, Laurel, Rockcastle, Whitley

Springhaven, Inc.
PO Box 2047, Elizabethtown, KY 42702
Phone: 270-765-4057
Crisis Only: 800-767-5838
Areas Served: Breckinridge, Grayson, Hardin, LaRue, Marion, Meade, Nelson, Washington

LKLP Safe House
PO Box 1867, Hazard, KY 41702
Phone: 606-439-1552
Crisis Only: 800-928-3131
Areas Served: Breathitt, Knott, Lee, Leslie, Letcher, Owsley, Perry, Wolfe

Owensboro Area Shelter and Information Services (OASIS)
PO Box 315, Owensboro, KY 42302
Phone: 270-685-0260
Crisis Only: 800-882-2873
Areas Served: Daviess, Hancock, Henderson, McLean, Ohio, Union, Webster

Merryman House
PO Box 98, Paducah, KY 42002
Phone: 270-443-6282
Crisis Only: 800-585-2686
Areas Served: Ballard, Calloway, Carlisle, Fulton, Graves, Hickman, Marshall, McCracken

Safe Harbor, Inc.
PO Box 2163, Ashland, KY 41105
Phone: 606-329-9304
Crisis Only: 800-926-2150
Areas Served: Boyd, Carter, Elliott, Greenup, Lawrence

Sanctuary, Inc.
PO Box 1165, Hopkinsville, KY 42241
Phone: 270-885-4572
Crisis Only: 800-766-0000
Areas Served: Caldwell, Christian, Crittenden, Hopkins, Livingston, Lyon, Muhlenberg, Todd, Trigg

Women's Crisis Center, Northern Kentucky
835 Madison Avenue, Covington, KY 41011
Phone: 859-372-3570
Crisis Only: 800-372-3570
Areas Served: Boone, Campbell, Carroll, Gallatin, Grant, Kenton, Owen, Pendleton

Women's Crisis Center, Maysville
111 East Third Street, Maysville, KY 41056
Phone: 859-372-3570
Crisis Only: 800-928-6708
Areas Served: Bracken, Fleming, Lewis, Mason, Robertson


Adult Protective Services Branch
275 East Main Street, Frankfort, KY 40621
Phone: 800-752-6200

Attorney General's Office of Victim Advocacy
1024 Capital Center Drive, Frankfort, KY 40601
Phone: 800-372-2551

Department for Behavioral Health, Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities
100 Fair Oaks Lane, 4E-B, Frankfort, KY 40621
Phone: 502-564-4527

Kentucky Domestic Violence Association
PO Box 356, Frankfort, KY 40602
Phone: 502-209-5382



Adult & Child Abuse Reporting Hotline

Alcohol & Drug Abuse Information

Kentucky State Police

Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky
800-CHILDREN (244-5373)


Domestic Violence Hotline
800-799-SAFE (7233)
TDD 800-787-3224

National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

National Sexual Assault Hotline
800-656-HOPE (4673)

Victim Information and Notification Everyday (VINE)


To lump all behavior in chaotic relationships under the category of violence can be misleading to the public. The common image of violence for the majority of people is physical harm, attack, and observable injury. Differentiating types of behavior in intimate relationships is necessary to define consequences related to outcome studies to form an evidence base for treatment. The formulation of accurate definitions is instrumental in designing methodology to compare differences. More accurate and sensitive instruments to measure the depth of the social problem are needed to reveal differences in gender-initiated violence, show the accuracy of occurrences of mutual battering, and quantify post-effects of intimate violence on men, women, and children.

The long-term focus on domestic violence is responsible for major reforms on multiple levels within various systemic functions related to criminal prosecution, legislative views and actions, and healthcare protocols. Given the pervasive nature of abuse in relationships, histories of partners including mental, psychological, and behavioral documentation are vital when determining the causes and effects of abuse. Understanding how historical and cultural belief systems are connected to domestic violence is essential in determining an accurate measurement of intimate violence.

Domestic violence will likely continue to be a significant problem in Kentucky. If abuse is to be prevented, healthcare professionals in all settings must educate themselves and assess all patients for abuse during each visit. For identified victims and perpetrators, healthcare providers must offer prompt intervention and referral information. Through these interventions, healthcare professionals can play a tremendous role in reducing and preventing domestic violence.

Complete for credit

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Evidence-Based Practice Recommendations Citations

1. Institute for Clinical Systems Improvement. Domestic Violence. Bloomington, MN: Institute for Clinical Systems Improvement; 2006. Available at http://www.icsi.org/domestic_violence/domestic_violence_2589.html. Last accessed April 13, 2011.

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