Source: Republican Herald
Author: Mark Gilger Jr.

A national women’s health campaign is going beyond the bruises to raise awareness about the link between domestic violence and chronic disease.

The Society for Women’s Health Research, a national nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., that promotes research on biological differences in disease, teamed up with Carla White, creator of Gratitude Journal app, to launch a campaign called Beyond the Bruises on May 27.

“I think now is as good a time as any to talk about domestic violence and chronic disease,” Aimee M. Gallagher, scientific programs manager for the organization, said Friday.

Gallagher, a North Schuylkill High School graduate, said the campaign was started to help bring the conversation about domestic abuse to the forefront.

“We also wanted to make sure health care providers are asking screening questions in an appropriate manner that allows women to tell the whole story behind any abuse,” she said.

Gallagher said screenings and counseling are covered under the Affordable Health Care Act.

A survey conducted by the Society of Women’s Health Research said 44 percent of women are victims of domestic violence, a number that may be underestimated. Beyond the Bruises stresses that domestic violence is more than just bruises and broken bones, it includes physical, emotional, sexual and financial abuse.

The nonprofit organization has cited research showing that abused women are twice as likely to suffer from chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, arthritis, depression and insomnia. Nearly 25 percent of pregnant women experience domestic violence, which could lead to pre-eclampsia, which is high blood pressure and signs of organ damage in women that can be fatal to the mother and child, as well as pre-term delivery and perinatal death.

Children of women who have suffered domestic violence also have higher rates of post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and limited social and learning skills compared to children of non-abused mothers.

“It really rang true to me in terms of what we see in the field,” Sarah “Sally” Casey, executive director of Schuylkill Women in Crisis, said Friday. “For several years now, the medical community has shown trauma impacts a person’s health over the course of their lifetime. It is also consistent in what we see.”

Casey said the link between domestic violence and chronic disease is a national health issue and stressed the importance of screening.

According to a survey conducted in 2013, 75 percent of women said they were never screened for domestic violence, making it hard for them to receive medical treatment and access necessary resources. Women who speak with a healthcare provider about their abusive relationship are four times more likely to receive the healthcare and help that they need to leave the violent relationship.

The Beyond the Bruises campaign compiled a testimonial video detailing survivors’ experiences. The campaign website, www.beyondthebruises.com, has information and statistics on the link between domestic violence and chronic diseases.

“I’m thrilled to see younger people become involved and it is especially nice to see someone from this community playing such as leadership role in this work,” Casey said.

SWIC is a private, nonprofit organization that provides comprehensive services for victims of domestic and sexual violence in Schuylkill County. Services include accompaniment at hospitals and medical facilities when requested by patients who identify as victims of domestic violence.

The organization recently received funding to expand its medical advocacy project that provides information to medical professionals concerning the dynamics of abusive relationships, screening and safety precautions, as well as common injuries of victims. The funding source focuses on including information about traumatic brain injury, reproductive coercion and human trafficking. Reproductive coercion involves sexual assault and abuse, as well as pressuring or coercing a woman into becoming pregnant or into continuing or ending a pregnancy against her will, through the use of manipulation, intimidation, threats, and/or violence.

SWIC recently started a campaign on its website urging men to take a pledge against domestic abuse.

For more information, call SWIC’s office at 570-622-3991 or visit the organization’s website at www.s-wic.org.

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