COVID-19 has increased the incidence of violence against women in Uganda. More men are at home – they interact with their families daily: on many occasions, they fail to move along.
Violence against women can be physical, sexual, or psychological. Physical brutality includes acts like hitting, slapping, kicking, punching, beating and using a weapon. Sexual violence takes the form of unwanted sexual contact or attention, coercive sex, and rape. Psychological ferocity includes insults, intimidation, threats to hurt someone she loves, humiliation, isolating a woman from family and friends, and restricting her access to resources.
Effects of violence against women include a range of health problems like injuries, unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, decreased sexual desire, pain during sex, and chronic pelvic pain. Pregnant women are particularly at an aggravated risk of violence.
Many women who experience violence seek health care services, but few of them report any form of cruelty. Health care providers should identify them and attend to their physical health needs and psychosocial support.
As a health care provider, you can help women feel welcome, safe and free to talk: Help them feel comfortable speaking freely about any personal issue, including violence, and assure confidentiality. If you suspect ferocity, ask about it. When a woman discloses violence against her to you, offer first-line support. Provide appropriate care, tailoring your care and counselling to the prevailing circumstances. Finally, document the abuse experienced by the woman.
First-line support provides practical care and responds to her emotional, physical, safety, and needs, without intruding on her privacy. This care is critical. It entails five simple tasks. The acronym LIVES will remind you of these tasks that protect women’s lives – Listen, Inquire about needs and concerns, Validate, Enhance safety, Support’.
Listening is key to effective communication and the basis of first-line support. Listen to the woman attentively, with empathy, and without judging. Let her open-up in a safe, confidential, and private place to a caring person who wants to help. If she does not want to talk about violence, assure her of your availability whenever she needs you.
Respect her ability and her right to make her own choices about her life. Accomplish this by assessing and responding to her various needs and concerns. As you listen to the woman’s story, pay particular attention to what she says about her needs and disquietude – and what she does not utter but rather implies with words or body language. She may tell you about physical needs, emotional needs, or economic needs, her safety concerns, or social support that she needs.
Read about sex after delivery here.
Validating another person’s experience means letting the person know that you’re listening attentively, that you understand what she is saying, and that you believe what she says without judgement or conditions. Show her that you acknowledge and trust her. “It’s not your fault. You are not to blame,” “this happens to many women,” and “you are not alone, and help is available,” are invaluable clauses you can employ to keep her engaged.
Discuss a plan to protect herself from further harm if violence occurs again. Explain that partner violence is not likely to stop on its own. It tends to continue and may become worse and happen more often. If the woman faces immediate danger, help her consider various courses of action. If not in immediate danger, help her make a long-term plan.
Support her by helping her connect to information, services, and social support. Women’s needs go beyond what you can provide in the clinic. You can help by discussing the woman’s needs with her, telling her about other sources of help, such as shelter, social services, child protection, police, legal aid, financial aid, peer support, and assisting her to get help if she wants it.
Information in this article is made possible from the World Health Organisation’s family planning: A Global Handbook for Providers.
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