Innovative Utah Training Teaches Clinicians To Prevent Domestic Violence
SALT LAKE CITY — It might be your mother, your sister, or your friend: one in three women will experience intimate partner violence in their lifetime.
A new program in Utah was designed to help health care professionals recognize the signs of domestic violence, to protect moms and their children.
Ashley Weitz hopes for a healthier life for her 7-year-old son Ezra than the one she had growing up.
“Sometimes violent, sometimes angry, sometimes really loud,” said Weitz, who lives in Salt Lake City.
Weitz said her parents had an abusive relationship. It affected her physically, mentally and emotionally.
“(It) has such an impact on the little ones who are watching,” she said.
Emilie Johnson and Linda Sossenheimer, along with the Trauma and Injury Prevention Program at University of Utah Health, have started training clinicians to prevent intimate partner violence.
They said it all begins with establishing trust.
“Creating a therapeutic relationship with the patient, even if it’s a very short period of time if you’re with them for three minutes or five minutes, what does that look like?” said Sossenheimer, R.N., clinical education outreach nurse with the University of Utah Health.
Rather than typical screening questions, they encouraged clinicians to ask open-ended questions that are less threatening.
“‘Tell me a little bit about your home life, like, are you married, or what is your situation?'” Sossenheimer explained.
The program was tailored to combat cultural norms that prevent people from seeking help.
“Perhaps airing your dirty secrets is difficult,” said Sossenheimer.
They encouraged clinicians to recognize risk factors with patients, like childhood trauma, and to help promote protective factors for women.
They also stressed the need to involve men and students in the conversation.
“We should be talking healthy versus unhealthy in high school,” said Johnson, R.N., injury and outreach coordinator with University of Utah Health.
Through the program, they’ve trained 200 clinicians, and hope to train thousands more in the coming years.
“You’re saving yourself and the life of your children,” Johnson said.
Weitz said a program like this could have saved her from a lifetime of pain.
“It can help to model for the young people in our lives healthy relationships and how to get their needs met,” she said.
If she could talk to the scared little girl she once was, she said she’d offer hope of better things to come.
“I wish I could go back and tell her all about this beautiful baby,” Weitz said.
The program is funded through a grant from the Utah Department of Health.
If you or someone you love needs help, here are community resources:
Utah Domestic Violence Coalition
https://www.udvc.org/welcome.html 24 Hour Hotline 1800-897-LINK (5465)
University of Utah Health
Start By Believing
Utah Department of Health
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