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Maryland women may undergo domestic violence screenings

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a panel of medical doctors who advise the federal government, recently urged doctors and clinics to screen women aged 14-46 for signs of domestic abuse. This screening would take place in situations when there are no obvious signs of sexual or physical violence. Time will tell if this recommendation will protect more women from abuse and lead to more domestic violence charges in Maryland and elsewhere.

Organizations such as the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have already been recommending such screenings for women of any age. However, according to the task force, there is not enough research at the moment on women of other age groups, men or children in order for primary care physicians to know how to effectively screen them for signs of domestic violence. Intimate partner violence, which includes physical, psychological and sexual abuse, affects 26 percent of men and nearly 31 percent of women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In addition to injuries, victims of domestic violence may be at risk for sexually transmitted diseases, psychological trauma, unplanned pregnancy, premature births and death. Doctors who confirm abuse are advised to assist their patients by referring them to intervention services, such as counselors or mentor programs. In the past, screenings for domestic violence have led to women acknowledging abuse for the first time and even ending the relationship.

It is possible that this recommendation can eventually lead to a standard procedure for domestic violence screening in Maryland and across the nation. For now, anyone who faces domestic abuse, or anyone facing allegations of domestic abuse, may wish to be proactive and seek legal protection. For victims of abuse, the first step may involve obtaining an order of protection. Alleged abusers may wish to seek assistance to defend themselves against domestic violence claims that can have severe and negative consequences on their lives.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Doctors urged to screen women for domestic abuse," Monte Morin, Jan. 21, 2013

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