Breaking the cycle of domestic violence

Published October 26, 2018

According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report, every minute, 20 people in the U.S. experience intimate partner violence, a tragedy that touches people across all geographies, genders, and demographics. 

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month – a month set aside to raise the awareness needed to stop the cycle of violence that affects women, men, families, and children throughout the nation.  

According to the CDC, nearly one in four adult women and one in seven adult men report having experienced severe physical violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime.

Healthcare Providers Play a Central Role in Helping Individuals Experiencing Domestic Violence 

To uncover the root causes of domestic violence, Blue Shield of California Foundation commissioned a survey of Californians to better understand their views on, and experiences with, domestic violence and identify ways to save future generations from the cyclical behavior that it perpetuates. 

“Our survey revealed—or perhaps confirmed—that healthcare providers, including doctors and nurses, are one of the most trusted sources to turn to for help when someone is experiencing domestic violence,” said Peter Long, Ph.D., president and CEO of Blue Shield of California Foundation. “That makes domestic violence a healthcare issue as much as a social or law enforcement issue—another reason for the Foundation, and the healthcare system as a whole, to take action.”

Collaborative Partnerships Between Agencies and Health Centers Provide Education and Support

Recognizing this opportunity for greater impact, Blue Shield of California Foundation developed an initiative to forge new partnerships between domestic violence agencies and community health centers. With support from Futures Without Violence, a national anti-violence and advocacy organization, the Foundation funded 19 collaborations across the state. Since the initiative launched in 2014, the program has:

  • Empowered healthcare workers to play a more active role in addressing the needs of their patients experiencing domestic violence
  • Built bridges between healthcare facilities and domestic violence advocacy organizations
  • Connected domestic violence survivors and their families to the services and support that they need   

As a result of just one partnership between a community health center and a domestic violence agency, the number of patients who disclosed domestic violence to their healthcare provider went from 12 to 200 in a single year.

Helping to end domestic violence is nothing new for Blue Shield of California Foundation. For more than a decade, the organization has provided vital funding for services and programs that support survivors and families. Since 2012, the East Los Angeles Women’s Center (ELAWC) has led a program enabled by Foundation grantmaking that trains “promotoras”—or community health workers—who lead outreach efforts to women who may be experiencing abuse. As part of the program, the ELAWC provides training for women who themselves have overcome sexual assault, stalking, rape or domestic violence and help them become leaders and advocates for other women in their community. 

Additionally, a grant from Blue Shield of California Foundation is enabling patients at the Beach Area Women’s Health Center to receive both healthcare and domestic violence support. After a mandatory screening for domestic violence during every visit at the clinic, patient responses are entered into a newly created template and saved within their electronic health record. If domestic violence is disclosed, an onsite counselor is available to help the patient talk-through her situation, safely discuss options and next steps, answer questions and guide women to additional resources—including legal support, emergency shelter, mental health support, safety planning, housing, insurance application assistance and more. 

“Through cross-sector collaborations, we’re making meaningful progress toward reducing the incidence of domestic violence and preventing its long-lasting effects on individuals, families and our communities,” said Long. “We stand united with survivors and remain committed alongside our partners in the effort to end domestic violence and support those most in need.”

Blue Shield of California Foundation and Blue Shield of California are independent licensees of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, an association of independent, locally operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies.