“We don’t code for it because it’s a socio-economic circumstance, not a medical diagnosis,” she said. “Women can be coded as depressed, anxious, with PTSD and other trauma, but not diagnosed as having experienced DV.
“It is often a hidden problem because it doesn’t always involve physical injury.”
Clinicians at The Floating Hospital are trained to spot check for physical or emotional signs that might telegraph abuse and are able to refer women to the appropriate department for care. Still, treating women and their children who have suffered abuse is not a one-dimensional approach. Fortunately, women seeking help—whether relief, physical or emotional recovery—can check off many of the boxes in our whole-person model of care. Aside from primary medical and counseling, women who have suffered injuries to their teeth or jaw are referred to our dental clinic: 75% of head and neck trauma associated with domestic violence occurs with oral injury, reported the April 2019 issue of the Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment and Trauma.
Women recovering from domestic violence experiences can also seek help in The Floating Hospital’s health education department. “Our programming includes information on healthy relationships, self-esteem and self-care—all topics that women experiencing homelessness and DV often cannot access,” says Meghan Miller, Ed.D., director of health education. “If we can help them identify some of these issues, we can help them with their individual needs.” In tandem with that assistance are social support and linkages to benefits women who are rebuilding their lives will need: sources of food, clothing and personal necessities for themselves and their children; applications for housing, insurance, education and child-care assistance.
And, to help women manage on their own, we help with essential literacies such as financial management. In many DV situations, financial control was part of the abuse and many survivors have no experience with managing finances. Most of these needs were identified in The Floating Hospital’s Social Determinants of Health study conducted in 2020-21. It revealed the real-time, real-world needs of women on their own or as heads of the household, even if that household is a safe house or shelter.