Across the nation, sanctuaries of help and healing have risen to counteract the insidious phenomenon of domestic violence. In Franklin County, one of those places is Ransom Memorial Health.
“Ransom is a safe place,” said Angela Welch, RMH Emergency Services director. “If you are in an abusive relationship, and are needing help, we’re a safe area — we can get you the help you need, if you come here.”
According to Welch, all patients undergo a screening process which, among other checks, asks patients if they are in harm’s way.
“The question we usually pose is, ‘Is anybody at home physically harming or threatening you?’ Welch explained. “We screen 100% of our patients for domestic violence. It’s a part of our triage process — triage is the beginning process where we are trying to determine how ill the patient is — we ask 100% of our patients if they are being harmed by anybody.
“It’s a commonplace practice across the nation; anybody who is a Joint Commission accredited facility, they have to screen 100% of their patients for domestic violence. I believe it should be the standard of care across the board, no matter what kind of hospital you are.”
From primary care to emergency services, healthcare providers encounter domestic survivors in a variety of contexts. Per Kansas law, survivors must be the ones deciding to take action, Welch said.
“In the state of Kansas, a survivor must initiate any action. If they don’t want anything done about it, we are not able to force them to do so,” Welch said. “Once we’ve gotten the go-ahead from the survivor, we will assist them in any kind of safety planning they need.”
In those moments, patient and staff well-being takes first priority, Welch said.
“For any of our patients that we determine are in a domestic violence situation, our first goal is safety,” she said. “We want to ensure that they are in a safe place, that their abuser is not here with them, and that the ER staff is safe as well. We don’t want to put anyone in harm’s way.”
After safety is established, the hospital will explore assistance options with the survivor. Ransom partners with several different community resources to assist survivors, including the Elizabeth Layton Center, The Willow Domestic Violence Center, and SAFEHOME.
“We have multiple community partners, including law enforcement,” Welch said. “Those relationships are very close and interwoven, and very streamlined as well. Every nurse and physician here at the emergency department knows that, if they have someone who discloses abuse, that we have resources available 24/7 to help.”
Welch emphasized the importance of spreading awareness on the topic of domestic violence.
“I think a lot of times, [survivors] are not aware of the resources that are available to them if they choose to leave the situation,” she said. “My hope that, when they see all of these organizations that are willing to help, that it allows more survivors to come forward.
“If they’re ready to leave, we’re ready to help.”