Hesperian Health Guides

To the Health Worker

a health worker examining a woman with bruises on her back and arm

Health workers can take a more active role in stopping violence against women. It is not enough just to take care of a woman’s wounds.

When you examine a woman, look for signs of abuse.

Men often beat their wives where the marks will not show. Women who have been beaten may wear clothing to hide it. As a health worker, you are one of the few people who sees the private parts of her body.

If you see an unusual mark, bruise, or scar, ask her how it happened. Or if a woman comes to you in pain, bleeding, or with broken bones or other injuries, ask her if she has been beaten. Remember that many beaten women will say they got injured by accident. Assure her that you will not do anything she does not want you to do.

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a report sheet with spaces for date, time, patient's statement, and exam, plus a drawing of a person's body

Write everything down.

When you see a woman who has been abused, draw a picture of the front and back of her body and mark the places where she has been injured. Write down the name of the person who abused her. Try to find out how many times this has happened before.

For information about how to treat a woman’s injuries, see Where There Is No Doctor or another general medical book.

Ask if other family members, such as her sisters or her children, have also been abused. If she is in danger, help her decide what she wants to do. Whether or not she wants to leave, you can help her make a safety plan. If she wants to go to the police, go with her. You can help make sure they take her claim seriously (and do not abuse her themselves). Help her make contact with other women who have been abused. Together they may be able to find solutions.

Help your community to see the harmful effects of violence.

Help the man

In some communities, men have formed groups to help other men stop using violence. Through discussions and role plays, these groups help men learn new ways to express their feelings and to control their behavior. Ask religious and community leaders to help start a group like this and to convince all men that they are responsible for ending violence against women.

This page was updated:17 Apr 2019