Can doctors do more for domestic violence victims?

It has been raining in Port Moresby for 6 days straight now! For this post I think I will write on something that is so prevalent in Papua New Guinea yet we seem to act as if the problem does not exsists. It is domestic violence.

Since starting work I have seen a fair numbe of domestic violenct victims. Three years ago when I was in clinical practise the number of cases I saw per week or month was small, about 1-2 cases. Compared to some countries this may still be fairly high. But for the last 3 months I saw more than 10. That is about 3 per month. I have may under-estimating here.

Having seen these women come in with racoon eyes, bleeding gums, loose teeth, cuts and bruises, I feel inadequate most times to treat the pschological aspect of their injuries. I try to refer them to organisations or persons that I think will help them.

Legally, we can not do much unless the victim lays a complaint and want to prosecute the perpetrator. We just have to encourage the victims to take that action.

While pondering on this issue, I began to wonder if we, medical doctors, can more than just treat the physcial injuries. Of course there is all education and awarenes but I wonder if there is more we can do. I am morally and ethically bound to help victims of domestic violence but legally I can not do much unless the victims decide to press charges.

What if there was a law which makes doctors or other health workers, who treat physcial inuries of domestic violence victims, legally bound to report domestic violence cases to a special police branch or the welfare services? Will that in some way bring those who abuse women come to face the law? I am not sure. One of the main downside of such a legislation would be that the perpetrators of domestic violence migh actually kill the victims, in fear being reported. The same argument that has been said about using the death penalty for rapists!

What do you all think?


About rodney itaki

Medical doctor and public health specialist from Papua New Guinea.
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2 Responses to Can doctors do more for domestic violence victims?

  1. JoAnn Bowen says:

    I agree 100% that doctors should be required to report to someone? in regards to domestic. I am a victim, having had a strangle hold twice in one episode and just recently thrown across the room, falling into a wooden rocking chair & breaking two ribs. This was done by a man I was engaged to for 6 yrs but we had been together 16 yrs. Yes, after this being the second time I had to go to the hospital for Xrays, RX’s, etc. Yes I have pressed charges, took out an EPO and I will also file a civil suit for costs, pain & suffering. Women are at men’s mercy and no one to help us even if we file charges. I pray there will be some kind of legislation passed for our protection & rights. I am thankful you have made this public through this site. I would like to be an advocate of this law.
    Thank you,

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