Program hopes to heip
battered pregnant women
The three sat down and wrote c
By BARBARA KARKABI
Anne Helton was a student nurse
working in an emergency room, when
she first encountered a severely battered woman.
Helton was appalled. But she was
even more shocked by the attitudes of
the other doctors and nurses she
worked with. They advised her not to
get involved because the woman would
probably just return to her husband.
She admits this is a pattern battered
women have, but Helton also believes
it indicates a problem with health-care
"We're used to quick successes. And
were also not trained to deal with that
kind of a situation," Helton said. "It's a
health issue that's been minimized or
ignored. All we do is treat the symptoms."
When a close relative was battered
while she was pregnant and miscarried
as a result, Helton saw what she went
through. Her husband was a physician
and no one could believe he had beaten
her, or that it was as bad as she said —
even though she had a broken nose,
black eyes and miscarried.
Because of her interest, Helton began
volunteering at the Houston Area
Women's Center, where she encountered an increasing number of battered
pregnant women at the shelter. Although Helton was convinced it was a
bigger problem than people realized,
she knew the women who made their
way to thie shelter were only one part
of the story.
Since she was also working on her
master's in community health nursing
at Texas Women's University, Helton
decided to do a prevalence 'study on
battering during pregnancy for her thesis. Her study focused on pregnant
women because they were accessible
for questioning outside their homes.
During a three-month period, Helton
interviewed 290 pregnant women between the ages of 18 and 43, at various
clinics around the city. Her final results indicated that 23 percent had been
battered before or during pregnancy, 9
percent had behavior suggestive of battering and another 4 percent were
threatened with battering.
'Not one woman was offended by the
questions. The non-battered women
were very supportive and glad someone was looking into the problem. Only
two refused to answer, and that was
because their husbands were present
and wouldn't allow it," she said. "The
most common response was deep sighs
and a reaching out and sharing years of
After finishing her study, Helton simply didn't want to turn her back on the
problem. So, she and her advisers. Elizabeth Anderson and Judith McFarlane,
decided to try and get the March of
Dimes involved in a prevention program.
grant that MOD funded at $60,000. The
three-year campaign is aimed at
health-care professionals, the general
public and, eventually, secondary
Pregnancy is one of the times a
woman has contact outside her immediate family circle. It can be an opportunity for a physician or nurse to
intervene, if they have the proper
skills, Helton said. They may also be
able to help the batterers so they can
stop their cycle of violence.
"We spend lots of time screening
pregnant women for hypertension, diabetes and cancer, but not for battering,
and that can be the most dangerous
thing they may face," she explained.
"In this case we're not just looking at
the effects on one life, but on two."
Some of the indications that battering is taking place include:
• A tendency to miss appointments.
• Constant depression or remarks
such as, "My husband is so jealous."
• Abdominal pain or unaccountable
To help doctors, nurses and other
health-care professionals deal with the
problem, the three women have prepared an abuse assessment sheet. It
includes a body map to show where the
woman was last hit. Helton believes
everyone needs to be asked the questions, just as everyone is screened for
In the past, she said, health-care professionals have been afraid to ask the
questions because they haven't known
what to do if the woman said yes.
Besides giving out the numbers of
shelters, Helton said doctors and
nurses can be helpful in other ways:
• Be supportive and listen. That
alone can help a woman through a particular situation.
• If she wants to get out, help her.
• If she wants to chronicle abuse,
provide her with a calendar.
• Act as an advocate. Be there to
help get her through the red tape.
• Assess for injuries if she's battered. She may have a concussion and
still be trying to take care of home and
The three women say that local shelters are beginning to get more referrals from health-care providers, and
they feel it is at least partially due to
their program. A nurse practitioner at
Hermann Hospital requested a student
nurse visit the home of a battered pregnant woman who had come to the
emergency room one night.
"She had recently seen the slide show
and was able to detect the problem. So,
word is beginning to get out," Helton
said. "There is so much in our profession that cant be prevented — but this
is something that can really be dealt
with. Health-care professionals have
not been in the forefront on this issue,
but it is changing."
Isn't it? Created by Phyllis.
Page 1 is the flyer, blank on one
side so that you can detach it and
attach it to a bulletin board.
Better yet, make copies and distribute them. Ae especially need
copies placed in hospitals and
doctor's offices. There are lots
of extra copies ready. If you want
some, call Phyllis - 944-0033 or
Rusty - 488-5546.
Let's start the season with the
largest turnout ever for a program
Let people know that NOW is alive,
well, and still fighting for equality.1
Phoenix Wheeler (former BANOW president) has this announcement:
Herland Sister Resources presents
an unforgettable evening in the
Civic Center Little Theatre (downtown Oklahoma City). A musical
concert variety of the unique sounds
Sunday, September 7, 4:00 p.m.
And she offers a special deal for
people from the Houston area:
One Free Ticket to the driver of any
vehicle which transports at least
3 concert goers (driver counts as
1 of the 3).
1/2 Price Ticket to all other riders
in said vehicles.
1/2 Price Tickets to folks coming
in vehicles with 2 or 1 concert
goers or coming by public transportation.
Free housing Saturday night (and
Sunday if desired).
Phoenix Wheeler - (405) 360-2585
P.O. Box 924, Norman, CK 73070