She was listed for a minor surgical procedure on my list. I called out her name in the waiting area and escorted this pleasant, middle aged lady into a cubicle for her pre-anaesthetic check-up. We both sat down at right angles to each other. She had an unmissable racoon’s eye on the right side of her face. I looked again. Just to be sure. It was there in its fading pinky-blueness. She was in hospital for a totally unrelated reason but I ventured into asking, “What happened here?” pointing to the eye.
‘Oh. I had a run-in. Couple of weeks ago.’
“A run-in with what?”
‘You know … It’s okay. I don’t want to talk about it.’
“Have you spoken to anyone about it?”
‘Yes. I am okay. I really don’t wish to speak about it.’
“That’s fine. How are you doing today?”
We went ahead, staying focused on preparing her for the upcoming procedure.
I took a moment to call the Safeguarding department of the hospital. They said that it was normal for people suffering abuse, to not talk about it for a long time. They advised us to signpost her verbally. A written set of resources might make her more vulnerable, if discovered by the wrong set of hands.
Two women are killed by a partner or former partner every week in England and Wales.
One in five people suffering domestic violence will plan or attempt to take their own lives.
One in eight of all female suicides and attempts in the UK are due to domestic violence and abuse. This equates to 200 women taking their own lives and 10,000 attempting to do so due to domestic abuse every year in the UK. That’s nearly 30 women attempting to complete suicide every single day.
Men endure domestic abuse too. This can include physical violence, as well as emotional and psychological bullying, sexual violence or financial control and abuse.
It is living hell. An invisible prison. Isolating, with no one to confide in.
It takes great courage to speak. It’s often ignored. Many suffer in silence.
Survivors do come in contact with health and social services but disclosure is difficult.
If done right, it is life changing. Appropriate response is invaluable.
Front-line staff must recognise signs and highlight issues.
It is important to ask and act.
After her procedure, I went to see her in the Recovery room.
“Have a nice evening.” She said. “Thank you for noticing.”