National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

Domestic Violence Training in Hospitals

The following entry is written by Maria Phelps.  Maria is a survivor and blogger. She uses her website http://4survivors.blogspot.com/  to share her personal experience with DV, address current DV issues and advocate for victims’ rights. Maria was kind enough to give us permission to reprint her latest entry and share it with you all.

Two years ago I was brought into St. Lukes Hospital in Orange County NY for a severely injured left leg. I was carried in on a stretcher by EMTs, followed by my abuser. I was given a room and got immediate attention by the staff, and the team of medical personnel did a wonderful job in stabilizing me and taking care of my injured body. With my abuser at my side, I was asked questions by the staff members, questions like “how did this happen?”. My husband answered for me, naturally, he wanted to hide the abuse and conceal the truth. I was afraid, in shock, and immobile, and I lied that night in the ER. For a few moments, I was taken out of my small hospital room and was wheeled off to get X-rays. I was alone, finally. Nurses tried to make conversation with me and asked what had happened, and I told them “my husband did this to me”. The conversation was over at that point, and everyone became uncomfortable. I got my X-rays not too long after the conversation and found that I had three breaks in my left leg, and I needed surgery. I went home with my abuser that night.

Today was court. Today I was prepared for a trial for my order of protection in Rockland County NY, under Judge Christopher. While preparing for my trial, I realized that the way a scene of a domestic violence crime is handled by law enforcement and medical personnel is critical for the victim. In my case, I was never once separated from my abuser the day of the injury, not when the police arrived, and not when I got into the ER. This changed everything. I was too afraid to tell the truth about what had happened to me to the officers when the injury took place, and I was too afraid to tell my Dr. what happened to me at the hospital because my abuser was hovering over me the whole time. My abuser was at my side the entire night, helping the police file a false police report, his version, and telling the Dr. that my injury was a result of “playing around/wrestling”. Looking back on this situation, both at my home with the police and at the hospital, I’ve realized that had the hospital staff been trained in recognizing the signs of DV, my case against my abuser would have been stronger today. It is critical to have accurate accounts of what happened at the scene of any violent crime, especially DV crimes, because too often, battered women are too afraid to report abuse to the police. In my case, even though I sustained severe injuries, there are no reports stating that the injuries stemmed from abuse. Thankfully, I did file an amended police report about the abuse at a later date, but I was lucky.

Although the scene of my domestic violence incident was not handled properly, I was still prepared for court today. I was prepared to tell my story of brutal violence, and I was prepared to tell the whole truth, nothing but the truth. I was prepared to explain why I couldn’t tell the police the real story that day, and I was prepared to explain why I couldn’t tell my Dr. the real story either. The truth is, I was never left alone with any member of law enforcement and I was never left alone with my Dr. long enough to tell the truth that night. When I arrived at court, I was ready to give my testimony and I was ready and eager to hear my husband’s testimony. But, I never got to testify because my abuser consented to the permanent restraining order and I was able to walk out of court today with my order of protection (1 year OP).

Although I was able to get my order of protection, I am still disturbed about something. Today I phoned St. Lukes Hospital in Newburgh NY and asked to speak with someone in the hospital that would know about staff member domestic violence training. I am certain that there are hospitals in Ulster County, Rockland County, and Westchester County that have local shelters train hospital staff members about recognizing the signs of violence. But after I asked the question, no one knew of any “DV training” in the hospital, and I wasn’t surprised considering I was a victim of violence and no one saw the signs two years ago when I was brought in on a stretcher. So, I left a message with the Education Department and I emailed my question directly to the hospital. I am waiting for a reply, but this is an issue I want to address. It is critical for victims of domestic violence to have at least one accurate record about the abuse on the day of the injury. These documents are critical for the courts and hospitals should be trained to recognize the signs of abuse and they should be following a protocol, possibly making a confidential DV file for the patient, and giving victims safety plans.

5 replies
  1. Linda K Henneman MD says:

    This breaks my heart. I am an OB/GYN and a domestic violence survivor. After I left my abuser and returned to my home in Virginia Beach, I became a member of the local Domestic Vilence Task Force. I not only spoke to nurses and teachers, but lectured to a medical school class about my story at my Alma Mater, the Medical College of Hampton Roads. As a physician at the local Public Health Dept. I incorporated family and partner abuse screening questions into our routine. The State of Virginia Health Dept. has since made these questions part of the form the health dept. uses for our female clients attending our family planning clinics.

  2. Linda K Henneman MD says:

    Oh My GOD! I just noticed the date on your blog! I was doing my “work ” on Domestic Violence from 1995 thru 2003 in Virginia. And we are supposed to be a relatively conservative (read backward state!) What is wrong with New York?

  3. Michelle says:

    Pass this on ‘MY STORY’
    Current mood: determined
    This is my story it is not edited please feel free to post it on your site and pass it on! spread awareness!! Lets prevent this from happening to anyone else!

    The big bang, My Husband commited suicide after failing to take the both of us.
    If you are in an abusive relationship GET OUT NOW! I have triumpthed over domestic violance in a most horriffic way! I want to tell my story so that i may help others, & save lives. I never imagined that my husband would go as far as he did.I am not here to slander my late husband, there are some very good things i could say about him as well. of course that is what we all say, i mean why would we stay right? I want to tell the whole story from the begining but for now i’m just going to tell you enough so that women will realize that they need to get out NOW! we live in a beautiful home in montana that we built together, we also worked together meeting clients, overseeing jobs, actually building the homes, etc. we were together all the time money was good (so it seemed by the way he spent) he never allowed me to handle any financial things, everything was in HIS name only even my car. Did i mention that i did not get paid for the work i did. Besides the abuse mental as well as physically we were on top of the world. Last July he beat me up again, I decided that the only way he will get help is to get a restraining order and file charges hopeing the judge would make him get counseling. And I was convinced i was done with his abuse. you see I have grown alot in my recent awakening and i got stronger and have regained my self confedence that he managed to slowly take from me. After that He Walked off a Job, we were building a home for someone. stopped paying the house and car payments and to top it off he blew off three different building opprotunities that would have taken him and the crew thru the winter. He, like always, talked me into giveing him another chance the minute i dropped the restraining order the nice guy went away and the abuse was happening again. he was arrested for domestic violence again at the end of hunting season while we were on a hunting trip, and again he wanted me to drop the restraining orders but this time i wouldn’t i told him it was over, he kidnapped me for 3 weeks then when he finally did bring me home he wouldn’t leave and slowly started to move his belongings back in. I loved him and longed for things to be “normal” with our relationship and family life. i had finaly figured out that no matter what i did i was not going to be able to stop him from abusing me and i saw “The big bang” comeing on, i was concerned that CPS woul take my kids away because i had him around them. on Thursday march 12th I called victoms advocate hoping she would tell me what to say to him to convince him to go but instead she said it sounds to dangerous and advised me to call the police. Unfortunatly because i did not want to hurt him!!!, i went against her advice I asked him if we could go for a drive and talk, i didn’t want to do it in front of my boys because he was already makeing uncomfortable comments around them.we drove around a while and talked i told him that it was over and to be happy , he showed the angry kenny then the i’m sorry kenny and I for the first time stood my ground. after i told him, we then talked about it for the rest of the evening. all he wanted to do is drink and that is what he did and alot! We were just about to our driveway and he asked me if i meant what i said earlier I told him “yes honey i love you but i want you to go first thing in the morning, i need to move on you can have everything just give me a few weeks to move out and i’ll be gone please be happy and for Gods sake do something to save the house!” in that instant he excelerated and passed our driveway I said “Kenny where are we going?” he said to our favorite corner everyone will remember us “Ken&Michelle the great love story and how it ended” (unfortunately becaused that also caused problems in our relationship, we were the most talked about couple in the valley) I’ve lost my house, I’ve lost my cars, i have no money and now i’ve lost the person i love most, i see no reason to go on and if i can’t have you here on earth then i’ll have you in heaven” I was absolutly terrified in horror as he was asking me to forgive him for what he was about to do i knew without a doubt that he was indeed doing the murder/suicide that his ex-wife expressed to me that she was concerned for herself as they were seperating years ago. I knew that if i stayed in that car i WILL die and if I jump I MIGHT die. My Dear Canine friend Ace bless his heart saved my life, when i decided that i had to get out of that car i reached toward him in the back seat and he wouldn’t come to me. I begged and pleaded Kenny for my life for his as well and for a second just for an instance i got thru to him just before we got to “The Corner” (alot of people have lost there lives on this corner) then he looked at me with an expression that sent chills up my back and said “your lying” as we passed the corner he speed up and then pulled into a parking area to quickly turn around and as he slowed Ace came forward i grabbed him & opened the door throwing him and jumping out myself I was on the phone with 911 freezing cold for an hour and a half finally when the police arrived i told them what happend and i got in the patrol car and headed toards our home. when we arrived it wasn’t long before i knew something terrible had happened and to make things worse is that my boys were in the house & i watched the emt’s bring in three different gurnies!! I was locked in the back of this car. It took everything i had to hold on to my sanity. I remembered my pendelum and took it out and asked if my boys are alive YES “is Kenny alive” NO i sat and prayed in shock after sitting not knowing for a good couple of hours the police and emt’s I immeadiatly asked if my boys were ok and they confirmed that they were, but kenny had shot himself in the head. I was Devistated! and still am! you would think that that was the last form of abuse? no! now i’m just getting it from some of his family and friends! There is so much more to the story but for now i just want women to be aware of what IS possible don’t ever underestemate an abusive person! If you are in an abusive relationship GET OUT NOW! there are lots of recorces out there take advantage of that and save yourself, your family and him! yes i need help and prayers for strength and for something good to come from this tragedy. I pray every night for all of you women in abusive relationships to gain the strength to get away safely! Call the police for god sake it might save his life! and yours. I am angry with Kenny for what he has done to all of us. I guess angry is putting it lightly! anyway you can email me at maid_in_mt@yahoo.com or thru this site. Thank you for taking the time to read my story I hope to reach out to millions of women and help them in some way. I refuse to let Kenny have the last word I will not let him distroy me like he has tried by killing himself in our home with my boys here how dare he! I will not stand for that I am strong I am alive and now i have a purpose.
    In Love & Light,
    Michelle
    There are lots of recorces for abuse 1-800799-SAFE as well as suicude 1-800-SUICIDE

    P.S. I am now in the process of writing my whole story and telling all how I got strong enough to stand up for myself. to teach that you can do it too!

  4. crystal says:

    can u help me i am in a domestic abuse relation ship and has been trying to get aways from him i lost my kids and my family and im in the proses of getting my kids back. but every time i try to get away from him he fallows me or threathens to use my kids against me or the cops. all i want is to be free and to have my family back with out him in my life. thanks crystal

    • hotlineadmin_NF says:

      Hi Crystal,

      Thank you so much for having the courage to reach out and ask for help. Please consider calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. We are open 24/7 and are completely anonymous and confidential. We would love to speak with you and help you find the resources you need to get safe. The internet is not a secure and anonymous place to have this kind of conversation so please call us when have a free moment to talk.

      ~NDVH Admin

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