Your Health and Domestic Violence

Statistic Infographic - 2.6x more likely to exist an abusive relationshipConfidential Community-Based Advocates employed through non-profits are available to help you 24/7 whether you decide to report incidents of abuse or domestic violence to law enforcement or not. There is never a charge for services. Community-Based Advocates are mandated reporters for child abuse but are legally required to keep confidential all other information, including your identity, and whether you have inquired about or received services.

If you are experiencing abuse and it has impacted your health, please visit our Find Help Near You page to find your local domestic violence program.

All domestic violence programs have staff who can help you explore your options, talk to you about seeking medical treatment or support from a healthcare provider, plan for your safety, access other community resources, understand current laws, and explain how to get a protection order.

Experiencing domestic violence often creates serious implications for your health and the health of your family. From physical assaults, to toxic emotional stress, to an abusive person sabotaging your access to healthcare, the impact is far-reaching.

For more information on the health impacts of domestic violence for adults and children, read the Futures Without Violence Factsheet.

Information for Advocates and Survivors

Confidentiality is crucial for many survivors. Over the past several years Violence Free Colorado has focused several policy efforts to strengthen confidentiality protections for survivors. It is important to know and understand the limits of confidentiality when survivors are seeking medical care.

Patient confidentiality and mandated reporting by medical licensees

In 2017, we worked with healthcare providers to repeal a law requiring medical licensees to automatically report injuries related to domestic violence to law enforcement, without any discretion or even when survivors expressed concerns about safety. Get more information on HB17-1322 and the limitations of confidentiality ›

Confidentiality and Insurance

When it comes to insurance companies, confidential communications under HIPAA absolutely applies to sensitive services such as seeking medical care after experiencing domestic violence, or sexual assault. Get more information about HIPAA and domestic violence ›

Throughout 2018, we worked with the Colorado Division of Insurance to strengthen a privacy rule (Amended Regulation 4-2-35) that allows an individual covered by insurance to request confidential communications, including the explanation of Benefits paperwork to be released only to the survivor upon their request which follows HIPAA guidelines. See the Colorado state rule here ›

Use this helpful template to navigate the request for confidential communications ›

Get the template for how to submit a confidential communications request

Traumatic Brain Injuries and Strangulation

Domestic violence is a common cause of acquired traumatic brain injuries among women, though the impacts have previously been severely underestimated. New research is constantly emerging that can help advocates, and the systems that survivors may encounter, better identify these impacts and the prevalence of traumatic brain injuries.

Strangulation or “being choked out”, with or without other injuries to the head and neck, can create a traumatic brain injury even on the first occurrence. We also know that the impacts of strangulation and blows to the head and neck may be cumulative over time.

Ask about a Forensic Nurse Examiner

If you have experienced strangulation, please considering seeking immediate care. Forensic Nurse Examiners (FNE) are expertly trained and skilled in documenting strangulation and identifying treatment options. Many emergency departments in Colorado utilize FNE’s and you can always call ahead to make sure the facility you choose has an expert available.

For more information on traumatic brain injury and strangulation see the links below:

Domestic Abuse and Traumatic Brain Injury Information Guide ›

Strangulation and/or Suffocation Discharge Information ›

Recommendations for the Medical/Radiographic Evaluation of Acute Adult, Non-fatal Strangulation ›

Violence Free Colorado gratefully acknowledges Alliance for HOPE International prepared by Bill Smock, MD and Sally Sturgeon, DNP, SANE-A, for allowing us to reproduce, in part or in whole, the Recommendations for the Medical/Radiographic Evaluation of Acute Adult, Non-Fatal Strangulation and Strangulation and/or Suffocation Discharge Information.

Accessing FMLA protections after experiencing domestic violence

The current federal FMLA allows qualifying workers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, but job-protected, leave when they or a family member has a serious health condition. Get more information about the Family and Medical Leave Act ›

The current guidance from the United States Department of Labor clearly allows for FMLA leave to be used when necessary after experiencing domestic violence and a serious health condition occurs.

From the DOL’s Questions and Answers document:

Can I take FMLA leave for reasons related to domestic violence issues?

FMLA leave may be available to address certain health-related issues resulting from domestic violence. An eligible employee may take FMLA leave because of their own serious health condition, or to care for a qualifying family member with a serious health condition that resulted from domestic violence. For example, an eligible employee may be able to take FMLA leave if they are hospitalized overnight or are receiving ongoing medical care for post-traumatic stress disorder that resulted from domestic violence.

Colorado State Law also applies when you need time to address domestic violence

Colorado currently allows three days of immediate unpaid, job-protected leave to seek healthcare, apply for a protection order through the courts, or to meet with an advocate. For more information, see CRS 24-34-402.7 ›

Trainings and More Information

Violence Free Colorado in partnership with Project Catalyst may be available to provide trainings for your medical practice on universal screening for domestic violence using the evidence-based CUES intervention. If you would like more information, please use the link to be connected with Violence Free Colorado staff.

Request a training ›

This website was supported in part, by Project Catalyst II and funding from the Family and Youth Services Bureau, HRSA Bureau of Primary Health Care, and HRSA Office of Women’s Health, U.S. DHHS. Futures Without Violence provided technical assistance and training, along with an evaluation conducted by the University of Pittsburgh.