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The Doctors' Role in Domestic Abuse

February 09, 1995

Thank you for Lynn Smith's piece on the need for emergency room personnel to be alert for domestic violence ("Facing the Issue Head-On," Jan. 11).

It is just as important for clinic personnel and private doctors to be aware of the signs that a patient is being abused before it is an emergency. At the Los Angeles Free Clinic Hollywood Center, we did a survey and discovered that fully a third of the young women who came to us for medical care had experienced battering in their relationships. For the most part, these were adolescents who were being battered by boyfriends.

As a result, we entered into a partnership with the Los Angeles Commission on Assaults Against Women (LACAAW) to make sure these young women got the counseling and support they needed to end the battering. All our clinicians are trained to look for the signs, and to ask the right questions to determine whether our patients are at risk. If a young woman is being battered, she is immediately introduced to a volunteer from LACAAW who counsels her then and there about her options.

If enough doctors ask the right questions, maybe battered women would not end up in emergency rooms so often.

MARY L. RAINWATER

Executive Director

The Los Angeles Free Clinic

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