Next time you see your doctor, they may ask about a lot more than whether you smoke or drink, and what meds and supplements you’re taking. In fact, don’t be surprised if they ask something like: “How are things at home?” Because doctors have been advised to find out if any patients are in an abusive relationship, and offer to help.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force analyzed reports and interviews from over 30,000 people. And they found that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men experience some form of domestic violence – or “intimate partner violence” - during their lifetime.  Especially women of childbearing age. Experts also say that abuse is twice as likely to happen in a house where both partners work. And can include physical aggression, assault, and stalking as well as sexual abuse, emotional abuse, intimidation, and withholding money.

That’s why the Task Force has recommended that doctors ask about potential abuse – even if there are no obvious signs of it. They point out that doctor-patient conversations are confidential.  And asking about abuse – and describing what it is – may get a patient to mention for the very first time ever that they’re being abused.

And may even be the first clue to the patient that they’re in an abusive relationship. 

And doctors can offer things like counseling, home visits, mentor programs, and referrals to community services, like battered women’s shelters. In fact, there are plenty of doctors who say they had an “abuse conversation” with a patient, who then proceeded to get out of a harmful relationship.

If you’d like to get help, check out the website CDC.gov/ViolencePrevention.