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First responders may discourage reporting of domestic violence

A recent study focused on emergency medical personnel indicates that a large percentage of first responders believe victims are at least partially responsible for incidents of domestic violence. Reporting published in the Journal of Legal and Forensic Medicine confirms that medical workers are not immune to widely believed myths concerning domestic violence. Since emergency personnel are often the first contact for victims, their skepticism could have a chilling effect on the reporting of crimes.

The findings are the result of a joint project between researchers specializing in mental health and social work from Florida State University and Canada's University of Windsor. Immediately after a domestic violence training session, 403 emergency medical professionals anonymously responded to a series of questions regarding domestic violence and assault. One-third of respondents were either neutral or agreed with a statement indicating that domestic violence is a normal reaction to stress.

In addition, 30 percent blamed the victim for being in an abusive relationship and a shocking 21 percent agreed or did not disagree that "battered women secretly want to be abused." Even more concerning is the fact that these responses came immediately after professional training on the issue. Researchers were not surprised due to widespread misunderstanding of domestic violence issues.

If a victim feels that they are not believed, they are less likely to report a crime, so the lack of understanding from paramedics and other first responders is a critical issue. Individuals can get trapped in abusive relationships for a variety of reasons, and victim blaming is irresponsible behavior, especially from first responders. There are available resources and exit strategies for domestic violence victims. An experienced domestic violence attorney may provide specific details about legal options available to anyone in an abusive relationship.

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