Dentists are in a unique position to recognise and respond to signs of domestic abuse. This is often easier to do when patients feel supported and safe. By using the right tools as healthcare professionals, we can create an environment that supports disclosures of abuse.
If you are treating a patient and suspect domestic abuse, it is important to provide an environment for a private and secure conversation. Try to ask open questions sensitively, considerately and without judgement. Fear of being intrusive makes many healthcare professionals reluctant to bring up the subject, yet often patients find it acceptable to be asked.
Use your professional judgement to find the most appropriate way to ask questions. Patients tend to be more open if disclosures will be treated in confidence. Ensuring privacy and confidentiality is essential; provide reassurance but be clear about the limits to this such as child protection and vulnerable adults. You should reassure patients of this at the outset and listen empathetically.